The exhibition on the “great void” at MAO in Turin

The Museum of Oriental Art in Turin inaugurates the exhibition season of the new director Davide Quadrio with an exhibition and an interdisciplinary review dedicated to the concept of Buddhist emptiness. Here is the report from the performance of the Japanese musician Hatis Noit

Performance Hatis Noit. Exhibition exhibition Il Grande Vuoto at MAO, Photo Perottino

Is the title The Great Void – from sound to image the review, which marks the beginning of a new phase for the Museum of Oriental Art in Turin. Conceived by the new director in charge, Davide Quadrio, the ambitious project stems from the desire to redefine the museum’s identity itself and elevate it from a clean container for canonical exhibitions to a tool for interdisciplinary experiences. An atypical exhibition stems from this very precise vision, which invites the audience to go sensually into thoughts and concepts that are seemingly distant from our culture, to immerse themselves in another dimension that embraces different artistic and philosophical disciplines.

Exhibition exhibition Il Grande Vuoto at MAO, Turin.  Photo Perottino
Exhibition exhibition Il Grande Vuoto at MAO, Turin 2022. Photo Perottino


As the title suggests, the absolute protagonist of the initiative is the void understood according to Buddhist doctrine: a fundamental element inherent in each of us, capable of making us feel one with the true essence of everything. A concept that has nothing to do with Western nihilism, but which instead urges us to abolish impulses and dualism in order to rediscover universal harmony. From such depths, the exhibition begins to unfold along a path that focuses on the act of immersion rather than the mere observation of works and objects. The beginning of this journey is determined by a long and thinly lit track that, after becoming a metaphor for a clock-creating action, suddenly manifests itself as it passes through the first space of the exhibition area. Accompanied by a sound scheme specially created by the Roman composer Vittorio Montaltithe light line paves the way into the empty space between two ritualistic objects (a Tibetan ceremonial apron made of human bones, dated between the 17th and 18th centuries, and a Chinese reliquary in the form of an octagonal pagoda that swings between the 10th and 12th century) to bring the viewer in front of what is the real cornerstone of the entire exhibition: a 15th-century Tibetan thangka depicting Maitreya, the coming benevolent Buddha.

Exhibition exhibition Il Grande Vuoto at MAO, Turin.  Photo Perottino
Exhibition exhibition Il Grande Vuoto at MAO, Turin. Photo Perottino


Mainly made to evoke meditative states in the believers who observe them, thangkas usually appear as canvases painted with religious themes and symbols from the Buddhist universe. Specifically, the exhibited thangka comes from central Tibet and belongs to the Kagyu school. In the center of the painting is the figure of the Buddha of the future, surrounded both by thirty-five Buddhas from the confession and by the whole family of the great masters of the ancient school, among whom we remember the ascetic Tilopa, his disciple Naropa and the famous poet and yogi Milarepa. All the minimalism that exudes from the overall installation explodes in the last room thanks to an immersive installation consisting of about a hundred giant posters from the artist’s majestic personal archive Paola Pivi. The protagonists of these solemn images, taken between the end of the nineteenth century and the last century, are the tulkus, the living Buddhas, saving figures incarnated in human bodies to lead mankind towards the highest enlightenment. The contemplation of these sacred topics is encouraged by the audio commentary devised by Montalti in collaboration with pianist Gloria Campaner. The exhibition ends with the screening of the documentary Some questions about the nature of your existenceof the directors Ritu Sarin And Tenzing Sonam.


As I said, The big void is an interdisciplinary exhibition that touches on various artistic disciplines and among the many initiatives involved in the project (such as teaching activities and film screenings), a rich musical program – curated by Davide Quadrio, Chiara Lee & Freddie Murphy – which explores some of the most interesting oriental sounds from the modern music scene. Among these, we can not fail to mention those developed by Hatis Noit, an all-round experimental artist who on the evening of June 1 last year intoxicated the audience with his ecstatic songs. The Japanese musician has appeared wearing an incredible piece of clothing (exhibited in the museum’s atrium), made by stylist Maurizio Anzeri, who braids several locks of hair. throughout its duration. Armed with a loop station, a set of tuning forks, two microphones and above all her voice, Hatis Noit has managed to recreate an almost supernatural atmosphere by recalling a whole range of sound suggestions ranging from Gregorian chants to traditional Gagaku music: a mix of sounds and influences expressed through a delicacy so natural that it is even touching.
Hatis Noit was just one of several events that will take place in the halls of the Turin building in the coming months. Among these, we point to the Chinese musician’s concert Amosphere – scheduled for June 30 – and performance by the well-known group of taiko drummers, KyoShinDoscheduled for September 4 as the closing event for the exhibition and for the entire review.

Valerio Veneruso

Art events underway in Turin

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