The Rubin is transforming. Read important updates from our Executive Director.

this body is so impermanent...

Screening and talk with Peter Sellars and Menpa Kunga Wangdue

Friday, February 10, 2023
7:00 PM–9:30 PM

this body is so impermanent”¦” (Vimalakirti Sutra, Chapter Two)

Film directed by Peter Sellars

Presented with the Fisher Center at Bard

Film schedule:

Friday, February 10, 7:00 PM

Saturday, February 11, 2:00 PM

Sunday, February 12, 2:00 PM

The Vimalakirti Sutra, a foundational scripture of Zen Buddhism from the first century CE, understands illness as a path of spiritual awakening. Inspired by this visionary sutra, five virtuosic and singular artists—master calligrapher Wang Dongling, devotional singer Ganavya, improvisatory dancer Michael Schumacher, cinematographer Yu Lik-wai, and director Peter Sellars—came together in the autumn of 2020 to create this 79-minute work. The film explores the deepest of human experiences—health and mortality, spirituality and transcendence—all heightened by the pandemic. Filmed during the 2020 lock down in real-time via a specially created digital platform, with the artists collaborating remotely from Portland, Amsterdam, and Hangzhou, China, this work’s purpose became all the more immediate as illness changed the world in a matter of months.

Co-produced by the Fisher Center and the UCLA Boethius Initiative, with an early iteration of the project first workshopped at the Rubin Museum in 2011, the film features cinematography by Yu Lik-wai, sound design by Shahrokh Yadegari, editing by Tim Squyres, English translation by Robert Thurman, and Chinese translation by KumÄrajÄ«va.

Screenings are followed by a conversation with director Peter Sellars and practitioners in the field of healing and the arts:

Friday, February 10 (7:00″“9:00 PM) with Tibetan doctor Kunga Wangdue.

Saturday, February 11 (2:00″“4:30 PM) with singer Ganavya, dancer Michael Schumacher, Wang Dongling’s artistic liaison Yibin Wang, and film editor Tim Squyres.

Sunday, February 12 (2:00″“4:30 PM) with palliative care physician Dr. Craig Blinderman and Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts Carol Becker.

About the director

Peter Sellars

Peter Sellars is an opera, film, theater, and festival director who has gained international renown for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of classics, advocacy of 20th-century and contemporary music, and collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative artists. Sellars has led major arts festivals in Los Angeles, Adelaide, and Vienna. He is a distinguished professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and director of the Boethius Initiative at UCLA, and a resident curator of the Telluride Film Festival. Initiated at a workshop on the Vimilakirti Sutra at the Rubin in 2011, Sellars conceived and directed this further exploration of the sutra with this body is so impermanent”¦ in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Menpa Kunga Wangdue

Menpa Kunga Wangdue is a doctor practicing Tibetan medicine in New York City. Born in Tibet, he graduated from Tibetan Medical and Astrology College in India in 1996. He completed a year-long internship under Senior Menpa Kunga Gyurme, the former personal physician of the Dalai Lama. From 1998 to 2002, he served as a clinical practitioner in Nepal. Menpa Wangdue has since been practicing Tibetan medicine in New York, and is the Vice President of the Traditional Tibetan Medical and Astro Association New York. He is a member of the Community Advisory Group on the exhibition Healing Practices: Stories from Himalayan Americans, which was on view from March 18, 2022, through January 16, 2023.

These screenings are made possible through support from the Fisher Center at Bard, New York Life, Barbara and Sven Huseby, Columbia University’s Division of Narrative Medicine, and Columbia University School of the Arts.

Suggested Ticket Price: $10.00

Member Tickets: Free

Pay what you wish for this film screening event, which includes admission to the Rubin Museum galleries. Advance registration required. A generous ticket purchase shows your support of the Museum and helps us develop future offerings.