The Moving Temple:

Conspicuous and Consecrated Space in Communitas

Temples are sites bound in meaning, whether in relation to specific rituals, cultures, or religions. Their meaning exists continually outside the temporality of specific events. The invocation of spirit persists outside of time, whereas a body’s presence in space is dependent on a moment. Temples are physical and spatial markers of belief. Yet, when the structure itself is impermanent—when the Temple moves—how does it impact the relationship of space, time and belief? How do spiritual aesthetics, and aesthetics as spiritual encounters, express the values of a group? How does a community find holiness in a place? How is space created as ritual and for ritual? How does the creation of space fulfill a religious need within a given community?

The Tasseograph Trash Tea Temple is a sculptural object constructed from found and reclaimed objects. The temple is a non-permanent structure that is repeatedly re-located and installed at numerous popular and counter-cultural festivals. It is a monument to conspicuous consumption utilizing a mode of assembled repetition. This aesthetic of abundance can be used as a lens with which to view the communities in which the temple emerges. How does it reflect the ideals, ethics, and spiritualism of counter-cultural, festival communities? At the site of the Tasseograph Trash Tea Temple, I address issues of material aesthetics through the performance of an emergent space created as ritual. I explore the meaning, function and experience of the space on the gendered body, the transcendent body, and the imaginary body.

Through the naming of the sculptural object as a space of spiritual significance, the engagement of bodies in that space is altered. The objects transcend their conventional uses. Recognition of the banality of material utilized in the temple’s construction (primarily that of trash collected from kitchens, construction sites, and dumps) creates a reaction of memory for the visitor. The material assumes a collective identity beyond its tacit utility, and in the case of the temple’s primary material, that of trash, from its apparent dis-function; thus moving the material from its existence as profane into a realm of the sacred.

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