Today we look at Lucie Stahl‘s beer can prayer wheels.
While living in Los Angeles, German artist, Lucie Stahl made trips to the desert to collect cans that had been rusted, tarnished, and bleached by the elements. [She suspended] the cans with a central rod and [affixed] them to the wall… Stahl displays her series of cans in a way that allows them to rotate, referencing the Tibetan prayer wheels… By elevating found garbage to objects of mysticism and reverence, the artist challenges flippant and passive attitudes towards consumerism and pollution.
from: What Pipeline at Paramount Ranch, Detroit, 2014
Of course, prayer-wheel-cans are just a small subset of Lucie Stahl’s artwork. And beer can prayer wheels are an even smaller subset. She collected a variety of discarded cans. So some of these were beer cans, some were soda cans and some were too rusty to identify.
The Dallas Museum of Art will include some of Stahl’s beer can prayer wheels her first U.S. solo museum show.
Stahl… will feature a number of her “Prayer Wheels” (beers cans and oil drums that can be spun by the viewer).
Concentrations 60: Lucie Stahl
September 16, 2016 to March 12, 2017
Prayer Wheels & Beer
I wondered, was there anything else connecting modern beer cans and Tibetan prayer wheels?
For centuries Tibetans (and Tibetan monks) imbibed a traditional brew called Chhaang. It wasn’t really a beer, but a relative of beer.
Still, someone in Tibet apparently managed to transform some beer containers into spinning prayer devices more than 100 years ago…
A traveller [who] recently returned from Thibet, says that at Soonum he saw several large prayer cylinders arranged over rivers and streams, and the people of the village considered themselves in a very special way the favoured of the gods. In one instance the prayer cylinder was nothing more or less than an ordinary beer barrel, which had been filled with parchment prayers and fixed on a pole.
Lewis Stevens, Praying Wheels
The Royal Magazine, 1899
More recently, Koon Woon drew an indelible line connecting these two cylindrical objects together with one sentence (of a longer poem):
On the rooftop rolls a beer can in endless supplication,
Like a Tibetan prayer wheel.
Koon Woon, from his poem, Sound Among Sounds*
The Asian Pacific American Journal, Volume 2, 1993
1 footnoted digression:
*Koon Woon’s poem (Sound Among Sounds) begins with this line: “A lone radio drifts in and out with the satellited Hong Kong broadcast.”
It was hard to find the poem online in its entirety because it was only ever published in a 1993 issue of The Asian Pacific American Journal. (And also because “some books in Google Books aren’t available to read in full.”) Searching online for the poem, was little bit like that first line about a “lone radio” broadcast drifting in and out.
Although I did eventually manage to read every sentence, I had to search for many different phrases in order to rearrange them into their correct order.
Koon Woon very kindly replied to an email that I sent him yesterday.
He explained the origin of his beer-can prayer-wheel simile: “I was living in a tenement room in Seattle Chinatown and there was a car garage (where they repair cars) one floor below me adjacent to our building and people throw empty cans down to its roof.”