Clear Red Koan is a kinetic sculpture by Liliane Lijn that invites contemplation as it slowly rotates. Its white conical body is interspersed with four illuminated red and white concentric bands. Each band is positioned at an angle so that they appear to rise and fall when the sculpture rotates. When viewed, these progressively seem to ‘dissolve and dematerialise’ – as commented by Lijn.
Clear Red Koan is part of a reactivation, starting in 2004, of a series of cones that Lijn first produced in the 1960s. Her enduring exploration of the conical form was initiated by its ubiquity in everyday life – from '…traffic cones, women’s skirts, church spires and temples, to cometary orbits…'. Lijn's interest in the art and material culture of India, Tibet and Japan is also significant in interpreting these works. The term ‘koan’ refers to a paradoxical riddle posed by a Zen Buddhist master to a student to help them gain enlightenment. A famous example of a koan is ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ which derives from the saying of Hakuin Ekaku, a 17th century Japanese poet, an influential figure of Zen Buddhism. In 1973, Lijn used his koan as the title for a film that she described as:
A film about seeing sound. See the sound of silence. What is the sound of one hand clapping? From seeing the sound of words the film moves to seeing life in a line of light.
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