The Distance: a temple to nothing, a gate to nowhere. Two structures – 7 and 8 metres tall – stand at the edge of Kelvedon Estate, on the east coast of Tasmania. Part of the ‘Sights of Love and Neglect’ project for Ten Days on the Island, 2017.
I was activating a site that is otherwise seldom visited as it is used to run sheep. But I was using its relative remoteness (one meaning of the ‘distance’ of the title) to evoke a ritual destination.
For one thing, I had in mind the unusual placement of the torii, or official gate, of Japan’s Miyajima shrine, which floats in the inland sea near the temple complex. It’s an uncommon setting for a gate, a thing one ordinarily moves through as the only way into a bounded space.
Then there’s the story in Zen about the ‘gateless gate’ through which an individual passes to arrive at Buddhahood, only to discover, on turning round, that there was no gate at all; they were already, and had always been, a Buddha. In a similar vein, James Finley writes of Thomas Merton’s ‘Palace of Nowhere’, of the door that spiritual seekers must enter to realise their true identity. This door, Finley via Merton suggests, is the true self. The self is its own realisation.
So the gate of the distance isn’t much of a gate, nor is it a temple. It is all open. There is no inside. Or rather, it is all inside. No-one is excluded.
None of this was likely the interpretation for the viewer. Like I said, the artwork was more about evocation, as is all my work. Really the destination was the place itself. There is a very special feeling about that spot. And I hope visitors to the site appreciated the opportunity to visit during the Ten Days on the Island.
(Photos: top and bottom by Guy Paramore; all others by Terence Mundy)