November - dharma arts round-up

Cornelia Parker - Cold Dark Matter

Time to start thinking about Christmas presents, if you’re not one of those with them bought, wrapped and under the tree already!

I find it so depressing when, out of desperation, I just give a gift of stuff that may or may not be wanted, used or enjoyed. It can make me turn against the world of ‘things'.

Yet there is stuff out there that adds so much to life, tickets to an exhibition or a film, good books, music, art. These dharma arts round-ups are dedicated to the good stuff.


Cornelia Parker

I love love love Cornelia Parker. I saw her installation, ‘Cold Dark Matter’ (above), at Tate Modern when it first opened. She’d taken a shed full of shed stuff, put it in a field, and asked the army to ‘blow it up’. She then suspended all the debris in a shed-like cloud.

Over the years I’ve followed her with interest, it helps that she’s super articulate and wise. But recently I was wondering why is it that I like her so much? There’s one simple reason, she suspends things.

Everything is hanging from threads and this creates a magical experience of stillness. Curiously, nothing is actually still, as in static. Yet a static object, like a block of wood, communicates nothing about the experience of stillness. The stillness I’m talking about is the stillness of meditation, an alive, vibrating, responding silence.

You can catch her at the Turner Contemporary in Margate until April 7.



My Instagram feed is mostly treats. The latest is is ‘Nitch’. Everyday they post a striking portrait of someone along with one of their quotes. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best! Follow them on Instagram or checkout their website if you can’t wait a whole day for the next quote!

"I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself."
Diane Arbus

"I left the ending ambiguous, because that is the way life is."
Bernardo Bertolucci


IDFA Film Festival

I met with a Dutch friend at IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. It happens every year at this time, which makes it a great time to visit. We had tickets for the ‘best of the festival day’, four documentaries that won awards in different categories. These two were my favourite, you might like to look out for them -

Don’t be a Dick About It

Is the story of two brothers, the oldest of which has autism. It’s hilarious and heart-warming, it’s like a lesson in love, applicable to any family.

Los Reyes

‘The Kings’ is a skate park somewhere in Spain. It’s where the unemployed, disaffected, youth hang out, talking about drugs, sex, and arguments with their parents. The park is also home to a couple of mangy dogs. Towards the end of the shooting the director had a brainwave, what if we make the whole documentary from the viewpoint of the dogs? Perhaps they were the most interesting characters in the park?

For just over an hour, you get to be a dog in a dog’s world. The teenager’s concerns seem pretty trivial compared to the stoic nature of these dogs making a it through life, day by day. A great opportunity to change your view point for a little while.



Anna Burns novel, set in Northern Ireland in the time of the Troubles, won the Man Booker prize this year. The dialogue, both inner and outer, is utterly brilliant. Here’s a little taste of it. The protagonist, who like all the other characters is nameless, has just heard that she is considered ‘beyond-the-pale’.

This I was not expecting and at once thought I could not have heard properly. ‘What did you say?’ I said and she said it again, delivering the news - which was news - that along with the district poisoner, the poisoner’s sister, the boy who killed himself over America and Russia, the women with the issues, and the real milkman, also known as the man who didn’t love anybody, I too, was one of those intemperate, socially outlawed beyond-the-pales. I sat upright, shot upright, and I think my mouth must have fallen open. At least for a moment, for the tiniest time in weeks, even Milkman went out of my head. ‘That can’t be right,’ I said, but longest friend sighed and here she did turn towards me. ‘You bought it on yourself, longest friend. I informed you and informed you. I mean for the longest time ever since primary school I’ve been warning you to kill out that habit you insist on and now I suspect you’re addicted to - that reading in public as you’re walking about.’ ‘But…‘ I said. ‘Not natural,’ she said. ‘But…‘ I said. ‘Unnerving behaviour,’ she said. ‘But…‘ I said. ‘But…‘ I said, ‘I thought you meant in case of traffic, in case I walked into traffic.’ ‘Not traffic,’ she said. ‘More stigmatic than traffic. But too late the community has pronounced it’s diagnosis on you now.’


Creative pep talk

I’ve been getting funny looks as I laugh out loud, listening to this in the gym. It’s made by a guy called Andy J Pizza (yes, really) He’s an illustrator but also has this podcast which is, what it says on the tin, ‘pep talks’ for creatives.

It’s a combination of encouragement and really good practical advice about running a creative business. He’s very into myth and stories, often comparing the quest of the creative to one of his favourite TV shows. As I describe it, I wonder why I like it so much? Nothing about it would immediately be ‘my kind of thing’. But he’s so genuine, generously sharing what he loves. It’s like listening to a funny, kind, intelligent friend.

Meet him at Creative Pep Talk

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Wishing you all some stillness and simplicity in the crazy, consumer frenzy that is December!

Rachel aka Vajradarshini