Art and Sacred Places


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Stuart Mugridge - Basingstoke Hindu Society

Stuart Mugridge responded to Basingstoke Hindu Society's small Mandir, or prayer room, in the corner of Carnival Hall, next door to the office used by members of the group who run the Hall. He did this by producing a ring binder of facts, figures and diagrams which reflected, the strict rules of Hindu temple architecture and the sharing and community-minded Hindu faith.. Participants in his project were also asked to register their perceptions of "sacred" on a website designed for that purpose. As entries were made on the website they were printed on saffron coloured paper and added to the binder.

Mugridge believes the boundary between the sacred and profane is both virtual and physical. Sacrality isn't necessarily location-defined but is also a state of mind and an expression of community. The strict rules of Hindu temple architecture are not vital to Hindus living in Britain: for a place becomes sacred with worship - with people. The temple becomes a focus for community identity as well as the dwelling place of the gods and deities - "an intensification of social relationships and the reinforcement of religious traditions."(See below for reference)

The very strength of Hinduism is its willingness to adapt to each new environment and the demands of each new age. There is a standardisation of Hinduism in Britain that seeks to unify whilst allowing for ethnic expression. The devotional can worship alongside the ritualistic for the end is the same: to know oneself.

As one Southampton Hindu states: 'the temple, its rituals and its imagery act as a telephone to connect the worshipper with Brahman and so with himself'. At Basingstoke the temple room is almost anonymous in its corner of a community hall. The small sign of 'Mandir' and a short length of ornamental fabric are all that may alert a member of Basingstoke's Ladies Choir or the Sapphire Sequence Dance Club to the presence of this focal point for the town's Hindu community.

Hinduism is a sharing and community-minded faith and this is reflected in the efforts of the Basingstoke Hindu Society to make this amenity available to all. Immediately next to the temple room, separated only by a partition wall, is the office where members of the society undertake the day-to-day running of the hall. It is here that Mugridge's response is centred; where the sacred and the profane exist cheek by jowl.

Reference: Knott, K. (1987) 'Hindu Temple Rituals in Britain: The reinterpretation of Tradition' in Burghart, R. (ed.) Hinduism in Great Britain: The Perpetuation of Religion in an Alien Cultural Milieu Tavistock Publications, New York

Mugridge's artwork was one of six artists' books produced for the Art and Sacred Places Six Sacred Sites project in collaboration with 'aspex' gallery, Portsmouth, 'The Winchester Gallery' and 'Hampshire Sculpture Trust'. The project was designed to explore the range of ways in which a location may be regarded as sacred and to reflect on the enduring power and significance of the notion of sacredness in our society.

Six Sacred Sites exhibitions and events included:

23rd September to 16th October, 2006 - Basingstoke Hindu Society, Carnival Hall
28th October to 19th November, 2006 - Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral
19th November, 2006 - RoadPeace Service for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims
8th January, 2007 - South Wonston Primary School
13th January to 17th February, 2007 - Rope Store Gallery, Quay Arts, Newport, Isle of Wight - Meeting Place of the Newport Quaker group
23rd February to 18th March, 2007 - Aspex Gallery, Vulcan Building, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth
6th July to 2nd August, 2007 - The Winchester Gallery
13th July 2007 - Artists' Book Symposium with UWE and Winchester School of Art

Project funders and supporters: Arts Council England SE, Hampshire County Council, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Portsmouth City Council, Winchester City Council, aspex gallery, University of Southampton


Art and Sacred Places - MMXVI-MMXVII