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Arts / Museums

An Out-of-this-World Tea Ceremony Turns a Dallas Museum Into a Spacey Playground

A Sacred Alien Exhibit?

BY // 09.17.17
photography Courtesy of Nasher Sculpture Center

The Nasher Sculpture Center opened Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony, a conceptual installation that takes the idea of chanoyu, or traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and reworks it in the strange, makeshift world Sachs has built in the museum’s gallery.

The exhibition was originally conceived for the Noguchi Museum in New York, and the Nasher was able to borrow a few of Noguchi’s pieces to incorporate in the exhibit’s second life.

The show at the Nasher also includes elements of Sachs’ 2012 installation Space Program: Mars, in which the ritual of tea drinking was forged on another planet.

The artist has reimagined every aspect of the ceremony within the space, from a koi pond fashioned out of plywood ‘stones’ to a mechanized tea whisk and hand-formed clay tea bowls marked with the NASA logo.

It’s a confusing hybrid between sacred tradition and a DIY future; somehow resembling both a Japanese garden and an extraterrestrial playground. Sachs visited the Nasher on Thursday to perform the opening tea ceremony, acting as host to two guests while a crowd of reporters silently watched from feet away.

They began at the shoe library, where the guests exchanged their shoes for split-toe socks with a Nike swoosh (Sachs is a collaborator with the brand) and what could best be described as space slippers. The participants turned over their cellphones to a locked copper box, walked through the entrance gate to the inner garden, and began.  

The silent ritual filled an hour – guests washed their face and hands in a plywood-stone fountain, entered the wall-less teahouse, and ingested a meal including Oreos and Pez candies before being served cups of matcha.

Yes, it was absolutely strange. But it was also pleasant, imaginative and witty.

The ceremony will be performed by Johnny Fogg – the tea master who trained Sachs – several times throughout the course of the exhibition’s run. I highly recommend you visit the museum during one of the public demonstrations to have a full experience of the exhibit.

In addition to his own works, Sachs has curated an assortment of pieces from the Nasher’s permanent collection in the adjacent gallery. The exhibit runs through Jan. 7, 2018.

Home, chic home.

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