Former nun, latex lover seeks funds for PhD at the Royal College of Art.
Hi, my name’s Damcho
Damcho is the name I received when I took ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist nun, aged 29. Before then, I'd been an established practising artist.
As a nun, I had the daily ritual of wearing monastic robes and did so for ten years. My spiritual practice had two main focusses: cultivating compassion and training the mind through meditation practices.
I lived a celibate life, devoting myself to serving Tibetan masters and the communities that gathered around them; caring for the elderly and those close to death; researching, recording and practising Buddhist rituals from the Nyingma tradition whilst receiving teachings in the approach of Rimé .
This path was incredibly enriching and inspiring for me, though over time I developed an increasing disconnection from my physical form which I draped with layers of maroon cloth and mainly related to as a means for service.
In 2011, while on retreat, I had a sense of my body and mind re-connecting and recognised - after some reflection – that it was, quite naturally, the time for me to cease being a nun. You can read more on this in a Huffington Post interview here .
More recently my curiosity as an artist, has led me to discover and explore a more sensual ritual of dressing: that of wearing latex!
Now I have the opportunity to translate these life experiences into a unique contribution that I believe will intrigue and - I hope - bring some benefit. The world’s number one postgraduate art and design university, the Royal College of Art in London have offered me a place as an M.Phil/PhD candidate to explore these two contrasting rituals. This is an exceptional opportunity and your contribution can help ensure this chance becomes a reality.
Why 'Bodhi Unbound'?
'Bodhi' is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘to awaken’ and in the Buddhist context, it's frequently used to allude to the potential that we all have to awaken the wisdom that's inherent in us. This potential is said to be present in every being with consciousness, though - for the majority of us - it's obscured like a piece of gold bound in a lump of coal.
I have chosen the word 'Unbound' as it expresses both the release I found when I stopped wearing robes, as well as being suggestive of the release from being ‘bound’ in the context of BDSM practices (which many people may think of due to preconceptions of latex wearing.)
Ultimately, 'Unbound' expresses an aspiration for the mind and heart to be freed of binding habits and negative emotions.
Bodhi Unbound relates to my research practice as it will commence through recording, analysing and interpreting the tangible experience of being bound and then unbound from the confinements of restrictive ritual clothing: both monastic robes and latex.
Whilst wishing to reflect profoundly on the juxtaposition of the ways in which freedom and constraint play out in our own lives, my aspiration for this research is threefold:
- Identify and probe our preconceptions and practices of some forms of ritual to see what new understanding of ritual may arise.
- To deepen and integrate my understanding of the potential of the mind and heart when ‘unbound’.
- Equip me to inspire, nurture and communicate with many, many others so that they in turn can support, inspire and nurture others.
In order for this to happen, I need support - and your contribution can make a difference!
Though I have lived and worked in the UK for a number of years, my Visa doesn't yet have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ stamped on it. As an Australian national, this means I need to pay international student fees. At an acclaimed institution like as the RCA, such fees are considerable!
I have saved some funds and can cover my enrolment fee of £2,000 plus basic living costs in London for the first 4-6 months. Going forward - if needed - I will carry on with part time work in order to cover monthly subsistence.
I will also continue to actively apply to charitable organisations and philanthropists for ongoing funding.
I am asking for your help to ensure that I can cover this:
- Annual Student Fee £28,400
- Research-associated costs, including books, equipment, art materials, conference attendance and travel £5,000
Total per annum £33,400
A Tibetan Buddhist master, whom I greatly respect, has offered me the first £500 towards my fundraising goal, insisting that it's very important for me to start and to finish this PhD.
A community based organisation in London have offered me an Education Development Grant of £300.
To these auspicious first offerings, I am asking you to join by contributing what you can; be it a few pounds, a major donation or support in kind.
Every contribution will be acknowledged in my thesis. Please donate today and share Bodhi Unbound with everyone you know.
(If you want to know more about me, keep on scrolling below this photo)
[Me studying, though I don't always do so in latex]
About me as a student and artist:
Aged 17, I received an award from the Governor of South Australia for my academic merits in my final year at secondary school when I achieved 98% and was awarded one of three Dux for my year. I went on to study in three important art schools in Australia - all of which I chose due to the reputation of their lecturers. I graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts with First Class Honours and was awarded the highest accolade for my programme: the Lavazza, George Gallery Scholarship which included a studio residency for a year. I exhibited throughout the 90’s in Australia including at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 1999.
My art always had a performance and installation element to it and I very much used my practice as a vehicle to explore the territories of human experience in relation to spirituality and concepts. For part of the time during this exploration, I was enrolled at the Catholic Theological College , part of the University of Divinity to study Christian Mysticism. At the same time, I started to study Tibetan Buddhism. During this concurrent exploration, I had the first inkling that I wanted to be a nun, though it was to be six years before that became a reality.
Over this period of time, I became convinced that my creative expression was important not because of its form, but rather because of its intent. With this conviction, I erased, destroyed or gave away all of my art works (and other possessions) and embarked on the path of a Tibetan Buddhist nun.
About me in robes:
I was ordained in early 2001 by Trulshik Rinpoche in Kathmandu, Nepal, and then was based mainly at a major Buddhist community in France. I trained and worked voluntarily in countries of the Himalayas, Europe and South East Asia for the following ten years. I even had the fortune of being the attendant to the Dalai Lama during one of his official visits to France.
Whilst in India on retreat in 2011, I had an insight that one of the forms I stopped relating to when I became a nun – my body – was an integral part of being on the spiritual path. I saw that it too is an arena for exploration and understanding, but one which I had greatly lost touch with.
About me in latex:
Fast forward 5 years, and - no longer a nun - I meet a couture designer who creates beautiful pieces of latex clothing. She obtained a doctorate at the Royal College of Art 30 years ago and soon after, she launched her career of making latex clothes. She and I made a natural connection which disarmed me as I explored her clothing collection and she assisted me in trying on a few pieces.
Immediately, I recognised that wearing latex is a ritual. It was at once similar to my experience of wearing robes, and at the same time could not be further from the protocol or appearance of donning monastic clothing. Whether monastic robes or putting on latex, what has become apparent to me is that both demand commitment of the wearer!
Once the latex is on, the body has a second skin, it is like a cocoon. It is so close to your skin that you feel naked, yet is also like a protective armour. Being touched while in latex, sense awareness is heightened. The experience is sensual, and awareness of the boundary between the inner and outer sensations of the body are amplified. And once the latex is removed, there is a deeply felt release - a sense of being unbound.
About the Royal College of Art :
For the last three years, the Royal College of Art has been recognized as the world’s number one art and design postgraduate university. Well known alumni/ae from the RCA include Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Tracey Emin, Paul Smith, Ridley Scott, James Dyson and Betty Churcher (director of the National Gallery of Australia 1990–1997).
To be able to enter into this eminent institution is an incredible opportunity, a great honour, and one which I feel provides me with the perfect vehicle, support and inspiration to deepen, refine, translate and communicate my past 25 years of research into something that I hope ‑ through thesis and practice - expresses an unboundedness of the body, heart and mind. Your contribution could be the difference between me entering this world-renowned institution or not.
About how you can help:
Every contribution will make an impact. So even if you imagine that I have shared this with you over a cup of coffee, then if you were to offer to pay a few pounds for that imaginary coffee, I will certainly recall you as an actual coffee sustains me through hours of research.
If you can offer more - or are tempted by any of my reward incentives - I will be so grateful for your generosity.
I also welcome donations in kind from organisations and individuals who may be able to help in other ways, for example with materials and equipment, studio or gallery space, or even accommodation!
Regardless of what you can give, spreading the word will make a major difference. Please share with all your friends and ask them to share!
With unbounded gratitude,