Hiroshi Sugimoto

The Screen is Always There

Excerpt from Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen, by Shunryu Suzuki:

Our everyday life is like a movie playing on the wide screen. Most people are interested in the picture on the screen without realizing there is a screen. When the movie stops and you don't see anything anymore, you think, "I must come again tomorrow evening. I will come back and see another show." When you are just interested in the movie on the screen and it ends, then you expect another show tomorrow, or maybe you are discouraged because there is nothing good on right now. You don't realize the screen is always there.

But when you are practicing, you realize that your mind is like a screen. If the screen is colorful—colorful enough to attract people—then it will not serve its purpose. So to have a screen which is not colorful—to have a pure, plain white screen—is the most important point. But most people are not interested in the pure white screen.

I think it is good to be excited by seeing a movie. To some extent you can enjoy the movie because you know that it is a movie. Even though you have no idea of the screen, still your interest is based on an understanding that this is a movie with a screen and there is a projector or something artificial. So you can enjoy it. That is how we enjoy our life. If you have no idea of the screen or the projector, perhaps you cannot see it as a movie.

Zazen practice is necessary to know the kind of screen you have and to enjoy our life as you enjoy movies in the theater. You are not afraid of the screen. You do not have any particular feeling for the screen, which is just a white screen. So you are not afraid of your life at all. You enjoy something you are afraid of. You enjoy something that makes you angry or that makes you cry, and you enjoy the crying and the anger too.

The white screen is not something that you can actually attain; it is something you always have. The reason you don't feel you have it is because your mind is too busy to realize it. Once in a while you should stop all your activities and [notice your] screen. That is zazen. That is the foundation of our everyday life and our meditation practice.

 See also: A Shining Screen

Echo of Everything

Sea of Japan, Rebun Island, 1996 by Hiroshi Sugimoto

by W.S. Merwin, from The Rain in the Trees 

Sitting over words 
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing 
not far 
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark 
the echo of everything that has ever 
been spoken 
still spinning its one syllable 
between the earth and silence

A Shining Screen

Radio City Music Hall, New York, 1978, by Hiroshi Sugimoto

“I'm a habitual self-interlocutor. Around the time I started photographing at the Natural  History Museum, one evening I had a near-hallucinatory vision. The question-and-answer session that led up to this vision went something like this: Suppose you shoot a whole movie in a single frame? And the answer: You get a shining screen. Immediately I sprang into action, experimenting toward realizing this vision. Dressed up as a tourist, I walked into a cheap cinema in the East Village with a large format camera. As soon as the movie started, I fixed the shutter at a wide-open aperture, and two hours later when  the movie finished, I clicked the shutter closed. That evening, I developed the film, and the vision exploded behind my eyes.”

~ Hiroshi Sugimoto

Tri-City Drive In, San Bernardino, 1993

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Tri-City Drive In is featured in Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance, an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, on view through September 6, 2010.