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this body is so impermanent…

Screening and talk with Peter Sellars, Ganavya, Michael Schumacher, Yibin Wang, and Tim Squyres

Saturday, February 11, 2023
2:00 PM–4:30 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 Vimalakirti Sutra at the Rubin in 2011, Sellars conceived and directed this further exploration of the sutra, this body is so impermanent”¦, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Ganavya is a New York-born and Tamil Nadu-raised vocalist who has trained as an improviser, scholar, dancer, and multi-instrumentalist. She maintains an inner library of “spi/ritual” blueprints offered to her by an intergenerational constellation of collaborators, continuously anchoring her practice in pasts, presents, and futures. Much of her childhood was on the pilgrimage trail, learning the storytelling art form of harikathÄ and singing poetry that critiques hierarchical social structures. She has appeared multiple times at the Rubin most notably for the launch of her first solo album Aikyam: Onnu in 2018. She is a co-founder of the non-hierarchical We Have Voice Collective.

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher is a performing artist with roots in classical and modern dance. He has been a member of Ballet Frankfurt, Twyla Tharp Dance, Feld Ballet, Pretty Ugly Dance Company, and Magpie Music Dance Company. As an independent artist, he has collaborated with and appeared in productions of Peter Sellars, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Sylvie Guillem, and Anouk van Dijk. He currently resides in Amsterdam (where his section of the film was shot) and conducts workshops in movement analysis and improvisation worldwide. Schumacher was part of the original workshop at the Rubin of the Vimalakirti Sutra in 2011.

Tim Squyres

Tim Squyres has edited 25 feature films, including 13 for director Ang Lee. Four have received Oscar nominations for Best Picture: Life of Pi (2012); Gosford Park (2001); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000); and Sense and Sensibility (1995). Other films include Unbroken (2014); Rachel Getting Married (2008); Syriana (2005); The Ice Storm (1997); and The Wedding Banquet (1993). His work has received two Oscar nominations for editing. He has also edited a wide variety of television and music video projects, and his documentary work includes collaborations with Bill Moyers, Michael Moore, Alex Gibney, and George Butler.

Yibin Wang

Yibin Wang was born and raised in Hangzhou, China. As a multi-disciplinary theater artist, he is interested in rituals, mind-body connection, and new technologies in the theatrical space and the difference between the East and the West in these fields. He has been the Associate Artistic Director of the 2020 B.O.N.D International Virtual Performance Festival and the Co-Curator of the 2021 Designing Care Project in Hangzhou. He holds a BA in Theater and Performance from Bard College and is currently pursuing an MFA in Directing at Columbia University.

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.