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Thứ Năm, tháng 8 18, 2005

No. 0475

Afghan cliffs the canvas for laser image Buddhas
by Solvej Schou, August 11, 2005
WHEN the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan destroyed two 1600-year-old Buddha statues lining Bamiyan Valley's soaring cliffs, the world was shocked at the demise of such huge archeological treasures.

Artist Hiro Yamagata is planning to commemorate the towering Buddhas by projecting multicoloured laser images onto the clay cliffsides where the figures once stood, about 130km west of Kabul.

"I'm doing a fine art piece. That's my purpose - not for human rights, or for supporting religion or a political statement," says the 58-year-old artist, whose other laser works include a recent display at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Against a canvas of desert darkness, 14 laser systems will project 140 overlapping faceless "statues" sweeping 6.5km across Bamiyan's cliffs, in neon shades of green, pink, orange, white and blue.

Each image will continuously change colour and pattern. Powered by solar panels and windmills, the 37.5mX52.5m-high squiggle-style, Day-Glo images - the same size as the original Buddhas - would be in stark contrast to the austere, rural valley below, a land wracked by poverty and violence; a land that has little electricity of its own.

In March 2001, Taliban militants disregarded worldwide protests and used dynamite and artillery to blow up the original fifth-century statues, famed for their size and location along the ancient Silk Road linking Europe and Central Asia. The fundamentalist group considered the Buddhas idolatrous and anti-Muslim.

Afghan Government officials first approached Yamagata about the project in 2003 and gave him conditional approval last year, pending a green light from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. UNESCO has been a prominent presence in Bamiyan, evaluating ways to preserve mural paintings in caves surrounding the Buddhas.

"They are the ones who will make a decision and will advise us," Gulam Sakhi Yousafzai, former acting deputy minister in charge of arts and culture in Afghanistan, says. "They are the experts. We are waiting for their response."

Bamiyan provincial Governor Habiba Sarobi hopes UNESCO can prove the cliffs would not be damaged by the 100-watt laser beams, which would be permanently projected every Sunday night for four hours. "If there is a way to do it so there is no environmental impact, we would support it as it would boost tourism and the images would remind us of what the cliffs once looked like," Sarobi says.

Letters sent to Yamagata from physics and chemistry experts at the University of Antwerp and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, note the beams will not affect the cliffs because of low power levels cast from a safe distance of between 9 1/2-13km. Zahir Aziz, Afghan ambassador to UNESCO, says he will strongly recommend Yamagata's lasers if they are passed by UNESCO. He also confirms that a Swiss plan to rebuild the Buddhas at $US30 million ($39.32 million) a statue is no longer in the works.

Meanwhile, Yamagata, who estimates his project's cost at up to $11.8 million, has been busy amassing funds, materials and workers.

The walls of his base in suburban Torrance, California, are adorned with colourful photographs and sketches of the Bamiyan and other upcoming projects, including a display in Fiji where he will create a huge holographic Mylar cube suspended on top of one of the islands. Smaller-scale versions of his most famous conceptual works, including the house-sized holographic cubes exhibited at Bilbao's Guggenheim, are scattered around the studio. Shortly after his 2003 meeting with Afghan officials in Tokyo, Yamagata visited Bamiyan and was moved by its orphaned children, squalid living conditions and lack of electricity. He decided then that his artwork should also give something back to the region.

Yamagata says 100 of the 140-odd 4000-kilowatt windmills he plans to ship into Afghanistan for the Bamiyan project will provide power for surrounding villages. He also wants to hire 40 local young men, typically jobless, to dig foundations for the windmills, starting in March 2006. Completion of the project is set for June 2007.

Yamagata, a long-time Los Angeles resident who was born in Japan, says he has already secured co-sponsorship from Mercedes-Benz, and will choose a windmill company in December. "Many people say my art will heal the people. I always avoid 'heal the people'," Yamagata says. "Of course, I help people, but it's more about not harming people. An artist to me is more about inner matter."

source:http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/
0,5744,16216509%255E16947,00.html