Directed and produced by Jawshing Arthur Liou
Music composition by Aaron Travers and Melody Eötvös: Federico Agostini, solo violin; Warren Haggerty, solo cello; Ji-Woon Jung, violin; Erin Rafferty, viola. Melody Eötvös, electronic sound performance; Aaron Higgins, field recording, 2nd camera man.
Located 900 miles west of Lhasa in Tibet, Mount Kailash is worshiped by four religions — Buddhism, Hinduism, Bön, and Jainism — as the center of the spiritual realm. Pilgrims believe that by circling the mountain on an arduous 34-mile-long path, they can cleanse the sins of a lifetime. Jawshing Arthur Liou’s project to film this mystical landscape in Tibet has its roots in his sorrow over the loss of his daughter, who died of cancer at age four. Listening to an album by a Tibetan Buddhist singer, Liou had a vision of vast windswept plains, deep blue sky, and distant snowcaps. Later, he was shown an image of Mount Kailash by a Tibetan monk and recognized the eerie similarity.
In summer of 2011, Liou, associate professor of digital art in the Hope School of Fine Arts at IU Bloomington, made a four-week expedition to western Tibet, which included a four-day kora around Kailash. (Kora is a type of pilgrimage and meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, performed by walking around a temple, stupa, or other sacred site.) The result is Kora, Liou’s ultra high-definition video project seen above.
In his artist’s statement about the work, Liou writes:
The harsh elements and expansive landscape turned my thoughts inward. There was no immediate enlightenment but gradual realization that the pilgrimage was a mirror to my solemn confrontation with past and future. The mountain is immense, and my efforts seemed trivial. With each strenuous step, I was reminded that my goal is not just to reach the end of the path. The humbling walk helped me reconcile my life within a greater continuum. I hope the work will provide an equivalent living experience.