PASSING, an Installation

Sound design by Dan Bora

The Red Carpet  (detail, 2009)

The Red Carpet (detail, 2009)


Passing is an installation grounded in Tibetan images and tradition that serves as an evocative and personal memory space. Passing draws viewers through three rooms, using Tibetan materials and soundscapes to awaken their own journeys of memory and reflection, loss, and transformation.

The three rooms, possibly connected by passageways, are transformed with materials such as the worn robes of Tibetan monks and nuns; colorful Tibetan aprons; existing artworks created by Sonam Dolma Brauen; and soundscapes specific to each room.

Sonam Dolma Brauen with  My Father's Death  (2009)

Sonam Dolma Brauen with My Father's Death (2009)



First Room:  Childhood

Second Room:  Power

Third Room:  Release

PassagewayS (IF AVAILABLE)

Entrance: Sound of Wind           Exit: Sound of Stream (Water)

Lost Childhood.jpg

THE First room / Childhood

THEME: Memory and Reflection

The viewer will be drawn into a personal journey/memory space of childhood; wandering through the room on no proscribed path. His/her walk should encourage reflection. Though large, this room should feel private and enclosed, warm and evocative.


This room will feature Sonam's installation piece called Lost Childhood  (2010, pictured above), made of used robes donated by novice monks at the Panchen Lama’s monastery in India (Tashilhunpo Monastery). It will be placed on the ground, off to the side near the wall, more than halfway into the rectangular space (this will not be visible from the entrance, nor is it the destination or focus of the room, but something the visitor comes upon). 

Colorful aprons worn by married women in Tibet will be suspended around Lost Childhood. The robes will be arranged so that there are relatively private places to sit and look upon the piece.

Lost Childhood is inspired by the Panchen Lama, who disappeared from view when he was six. It is dedicated not only to him but to the children of the world. Creating it was an intense experience for Sonam, who re-lived very painful memories of her own lost childhood; she was only six years old when she and her mother and father, the monk Tsering Dhondup, fled Tibet on foot during the winter of 1959. It was a harrowing journey across the Himalayan mountains; her little sister died in refugee camps soon after they arrived in India, and her father never regained his health, passing away several years later.

Lost Childhood symbolizes a range of different emotions and unsolved questions, some about the nature of cruelty, for which there are no answers.

ROOM & MATERIALS: Ideally, this installation will exist in a long and deep rectangular-shaped room (10 meters long x 7 meters wide). Materials will include:

     ~ Lost Childhood

     ~ Hanging Tibetan monk and nun robes

     ~ Hanging Tibetan aprons

Maroon and gold Tibetan monk and nun robes of different sizes are suspended at varying heights from the ceiling – some quite low, others high (displayed vertically and hung lengthwise, varying from 275 cm to 4 meters long; width approx. 90 cm). Colorful Tibetan aprons (roughly 50 cm x 60cm) will also be part of the visual environment.


SOUND: The soundscape will be created from the morning prayers of Kunsang Wangmo, a Tibetan nun (and Sonam’s mother). The audio of Kunsang’s morning ritual will be manipulated, likely using the Lucier process, in the exhibition space. It will be played on a 10-12 minute loop.

The three-hour ritual with water, butter lamps, and incense was recorded in Bern, Spring 2012.


N.B. This room is the most challenging in terms of physical design.





After emerging from the first space, the viewer will be confronted with an austere room associated with power. This room is inspired by Sonam’s Red Carpet (2009, seen above), a smaller-scale installation comprised of a red carpet and 500 white tsa tsas.

In this room, white clay tsa tsas will be arranged in neat, symmetrical rows on either side of the red carpet, filling the entire space. This stark setting comments on the phenomenon of red carpets and its implications of money, power, social systems (aggressors vs. victims), and ego; it is conceived to stimulate thinking about the notion of cultural exchange/appropriation and the evolution of cultures and identity.

In this setting, tsa tsas represent the dead; in Tibet, ashes of the deceased are mixed with clay/earth to create these sacred forms. The tsa tsas are then left near rivers, where remains are returned back to earth, or taken to the mountaintops, where they are scattered by the winds.

ROOM/MATERIALS: This room should be square (7 x 7 meters), featuring the swath of carpet (70 cm) running down the center of the room. The viewer will walk on that straight path through the space (a la Western “red carpets” that are used for special ceremonies and events.

The tsa tsas are nearly 12 cm in height and 6 cm in diameter (they should be approximately 7 cm apart, at the base).


The abstracted design (looped, perhaps 8 minutes long) may include: 

-           Hundreds of troops marching (could be U.S., North Korean, Chinese, etc.), military parades, other militant sounds

-      Stock market shouting

-      Western red carpet sounds (photo shutters, shouts, etc.)

The sound design may be localized, e.g. sounds (voices) possibly coming from the tsa tsas themselves on the ground; sounds of marching might from below; and the sound of camera shutters clicking emanating from eye-level.

N.B. The physical design is straightforward but the soundscape will be challenging. The light may be of an aggressive nature and the temperature may be cool. People may feel uneasy in this room, and not be compelled to linger long.



This square room (9 x 9 meters) will be a sacred, meditative space  – very peaceful and light. Four circles of maroon monks’ robes will hang in concentric circles, shielding in the center My Father’s Death (2009; measuring 1 x 1 meter), Sonam’s art work made of monk robes, which will be resting on the ground.

My Father’s Death will not be visible upon entry into the space, but will be found after the viewer weaves his/her way through the four layers.  There will be space around the central installation, if people wish to stand or sit for some time. There should be a feeling of lightness, openness, freedom, and peace.

Sonam’s original piece was dedicated to the many fathers who have perished due to senseless events – war, conflict, injustice. Like the young Sonam, young children and their mothers have waited for the return of fathers who have never come home. Yet, this room will have a very grounded and settled feeling, with a feeling of peace arising out of conflict. There should be a sense that something that had been pushed down or suppressed has been opened and released.

SOUND: The sound will be very simple and pure; no highly complicated “design.” At present, we are thinking that there will be silence and/or the sound of air: the viewers would encounter a meditative space that can be filled with their own thoughts. (If there are other sounds – like prayer wheels, shells, perhaps even chanting, etc. – they should be faint, airy, and extremely subtle.



~ Monks’ robes

   My Father’s Death 49 robes from Lhasa monasteries (and 9 tsa tsas)

   Lost Childhood (novice robes from India’s Tashilhunpo Monastery, the monastery of     the Panchen Lama)

~ Nuns’ robes – Dharamsala

~ Wives’ aprons – Old, handmade aprons from Lhasa & outside Lhasa (including some used for New Year’s)




1953-1960 grown up in Tibet

1960  escape to India

1972   married to the cultural anthropologist Martin Brauen

1973   emigration to Switzerland

since 1990 attending art classes at the Art School Berne

2008-2011 living and working in New York

2010  Residency at Vermont Studio Center, Johnson VT

2011   Residency in Haeinsa temple, Korea

since 2012  studio at Progr, Berne

Many exhibitions (solo and group) in Europe (Rotterdam, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Zürich, Bern, Gstaad etc), the US (New York, Los Angeles, Brattleborough) and Asia (Korea),  with artists like Bill Viola, Mark Rothko, Zhang Huan, Xu Bing, William Kentridge, Jenny Holzer, Kiki Smith, etc.

                                         photo by Brigitte Lacombe

                                         photo by Brigitte Lacombe



Passing is the first installation Elena has helped to conceive. She has written texts for works by Korean composer Cecilia Heejeong Kim that have been performed in Seoul, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.  


Over the last decade, Dan Bora has proven to be a major force behind New York City’s new music scene. As producer and engineer – from the studio to the live stage to film scores – he has worked extensively with renowned composers and artists including Antony, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Valgeir Sigurðsson, and groups such as Alarm Will Sound, The Dirty Projectors and The Magnetic Fields. Dan is credited on many albums and films, among which, the Academy Award-winning Fog of War, the Academy Award-nominated The Hours, The Illusionist, Joshua, and Woody Allen’s, Cassandra’s Dream. Other theatrical credits include The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, Missy Mazzoli’s opera Song From the Uproar, and Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach. His mixing and sound design have been praised as “deft,” “provocative and even poignant…” (The New York Times).