Seeing is believing

In this day and age religion has lost much of its value among the majority of us, especially when the church is mostly mentioned in conjunction with scandals. And yet, Paola Pivi’s new exhibition at the Witte de With in Rotterdam manages to examine the power of believing, while at the same time serve as an extraordinary documentation of a Buddhist practice. Her work “Tulkus 1880 to 2018” is a mammoth work in progress, based on extensive international research and aimed at creating a complete collection of portraits and basic information on all the tulkus of the world who, in Tibetan Buddhism, are the recognized reincarnations of previous Buddhist masters. Her collection begins with exponents from the beginning of photography until today, from all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon, and from all the areas of the world where these religions are practiced. Her ever-growing survey has until now collected over 1100 photographic portraits. These images are commonly treasured in monasteries, hung in private households or shops, or collected by the faithful. Considered holy by the Buddhists, the photographs of the tulku are believed to have the same power as the tulku themselves.?? The notion of staging these images in an institution dedicated to contemporary art raises several questions about the connection between image and meaning, experience and representation, and the not-so-different practice across religions of imbuing images with the spiritual essence of saints and holy men.

Paola Pivi
Tulkus 1880 to 2018
Until 5 May 2013
Witte de With

Bettina Rheims