Pilgrims quest. 1994 to 2005

An eclectic turn

Pilgrims quest revisited.

In the evocative narrative of Mr. Italozazen’s artistic and spiritual journey, one discerns a profound synthesis of Eastern spiritual traditions with Western artistic sensibilities. During his fourth pilgrimage to India in 1989, a significant transformation occurred, marking a new phase in his artistic evolution. This period was characterized by an immersion in the Brahma Kumaris style of meditation, a practice distinct in its approach from secular arts. The Brahma Kumaris, with their emphasis on inner reflection and purity of mind, offer a meditative experience that contrasts sharply with the external, often material-focused realm of secular arts. This dichotomy between the internal spiritual and the external artistic realms provides a fertile ground for exploration in Mr. Italozazen’s work.

The historical tapestry of Western engagement with Hinduism provides a rich context for this transformative phase in Mr. Italozazen’s life. The late 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed a burgeoning interest in Eastern philosophies among Western intellectuals and artists, a fascination that continues to influence contemporary thought and creative expression. Italo Giardina, as Italozazen, aligns himself with this tradition, blending philosophical inquiry with artistic creation.

Furthermore, Mr. Italozazen’s participation as an international volunteer at the Kumbh Mela, a traditional Hindu festival, exemplifies his deep commitment to cultural immersion and understanding. The Kumbh Mela, renowned for its spiritual significance and gathering of devotees from diverse backgrounds, provided an unparalleled opportunity for him to engage directly with the practices and rituals of Hinduism. This experience, no doubt, enriched his perspective and further integrated Eastern spiritual elements into his artistic ethos.

In summary, Italozazen’s journey is not merely a physical traversal across geographies but a metaphysical exploration where the Brahma Kumaris style of meditation and the secular arts converge, revealing a unique artistic voice informed by a rich tradition of Western engagement with Hindu spirituality.

(Kumbh Mela).

The paradigm shift.

Enquiry into lifestyle and traditions.

In the transformative narrative of Italozazen’s quest through the 1990s, one observes a significant departure from traditional approaches to the study and experience of Indian yogic practices. This period in Mr. Italozazen’s life reflects broader sociological trends and shifts in the global cultural landscape, particularly pertaining to the Western engagement with Eastern spiritual traditions.

The historical context of colonial research, traditionally dominated by a select in-group of academic anthropologists, is crucial in understanding this shift. In previous generations, Western engagement with Eastern practices often occurred within rigid, institutional frameworks, driven by academic and colonial interests. These pursuits were marked by an extractive and orientalist approach, seeking to ‘discover’ and ‘interpret’ Eastern traditions for Western audiences, often stripping them of their contextual and cultural richness.

However, Italozazen’s approach, as an Australian citizen and an artist outside the academic sphere, represents a significant departure from these traditional modes of engagement. His experimentalism with various yogic schools and practices across India symbolizes a democratization of cultural exchange and a move towards a more egalitarian and experiential form of knowledge acquisition. This shift aligns with the broader post-colonial movement, which seeks to dismantle the hegemonic structures of knowledge production and promotes a more inclusive and participatory approach to cultural understanding.

Moreover, the 1990s witnessed a global surge in interest in Eastern spiritual practices, paralleled by a growing critique of Western materialism and a search for alternative modes of living and understanding. Italozazen’s journey, therefore, can be seen as part of a larger societal quest for a ‘sublime truth,’ a truth not confined to the walls of institutions or the pages of academic texts, but one that is lived, experienced, and continually evolving.

His transformation from performance art to expressionism, and the use of movement/dance, syncretic blends of pagan and Hindu motifs, and humanistic encounters rather than traditional teacher/student dynamics, signify a personal and societal shift towards a more holistic, integrated approach to spirituality and art. This approach transcends the boundaries of traditional academia and reflects a broader trend of individuals seeking spiritual and cultural enlightenment outside the confines of institutionalized knowledge systems.

In essence, Italozazen’s journey is emblematic of a broader sociological shift where individuals, unhindered by the strictures of traditional academia, embark on personal quests for spiritual and cultural understanding, contributing to a more diverse and inclusive global tapestry of knowledge and experience.

Yoga research, academia, and pilgrimage.

In the 1990s, a period marked by significant social and cultural shifts, the narrative of Italozazen’s spiritual and academic journey unfolds, deeply intertwined with the phenomena of budget air travel, the globalization of apparel trade, and the low cost of living in developing countries. These socio-economic factors catalyzed a unique cultural movement, particularly among Western youth, facilitating extended stays in countries like India for immersive exploration of spiritual and cultural practices.

During this era, Italozazen, deeply engaged in the study of yoga, academia, and pilgrimage, observed a phenomenon he termed the “spiritual pod.” This concept encapsulated the essence of various international religious non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating within the classical Hindu paradigm of soul, rebirth, and release. These organizations, often adhering to traditional spiritual teachings, formed insulated communities, or ‘pods,’ that offered structured pathways to spiritual enlightenment.

However, Italozazen’s inquisitive nature and eclectic approach led him to step outside these spiritual enclaves. He embarked on a broader exploration of religious expressionism, delving into the diverse and burgeoning New Age Movement. This movement, characterized by its eclectic and syncretic nature, resonated with the cultural zeitgeist of the time, appealing to a generation seeking spiritual fulfillment beyond traditional religious structures.

The accessibility of budget air travel played a crucial role in this journey. It opened the doors to affordable global exploration, allowing Italozazen and his contemporaries to travel extensively, particularly to India, a hub of spiritual and cultural richness. Similarly, the global apparel trade, burgeoning at the time, reflected a growing interconnectedness of cultures, with Western youth adopting and adapting styles from the East, further blurring cultural boundaries.

The low cost of living in countries like India was another critical factor. It enabled Western seekers like Italozazen to spend extended periods immersed in local cultures, studying and experiencing traditional practices firsthand. From 1998 to 2004, Italozazen’s studies took on an academic approach, deepening his understanding of yoga and its various interpretations and practices.

The pivotal moment in Italozazen’s journey came after narrowly escaping the 2004 Tsunami, a harrowing experience that perhaps deepened his spiritual quest. Following this event, he participated in a South Indian pilgrimage, further immersing himself in the local spiritual practices. This experience was enriched by his subsequent engagement in stone carving lessons with a traditional sculptors’ guild in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, symbolizing a fusion of artistic expression with spiritual exploration.

Italozazen’s journey through the 1990s and into the early 2000s exemplifies the unique interplay of cultural, economic, and spiritual factors that shaped a generation’s approach to spiritual exploration. His path reflects a departure from traditional religious structures towards a more eclectic, globally-influenced, and experiential approach to spirituality, emblematic of the broader societal shifts of the time.