Have You Tried Meditation? by Siyuan Peng

Capstone 2022

“Have You Tried Meditation?” is an installation and pseudo-performance piece that expresses a personal frustration with the commercialization of mindfulness practices like meditation while examining the deep-seated ableism in a society that values productivity above all else.


With the rise of wellness culture and burnout in recent years, mindfulness has gone from a rather fringe topic of scientific investigation to being an occasional replacement for psychotherapy, a tool for corporate well-being, and a widely-implemented practice in educational settings. One would think it’s good that we’re talking about mental health more, but capitalism has twisted our understanding of it to align with our never-ending pursuit of self-optimization and productivity. Mindfulness is an industrial complex, manifested in things like the “AmaZen” meditation booth and subscription-based mindfulness apps that claim to help a user achieve happiness in just 10 minutes. These are all examples of the phenomenon known as “McMindfulness”, a term popularized by Dr. Ronald Purser to describe the use of mindfulness for the sake of profit.

“Have You Tried Meditation” is a piece that externalizes my feelings about modern mindfulness by appropriating the structure of a mindfulness practice in order to convey my own message. The piece has two components: a breathing-driven interaction between a user and a 3D scan of myself, and the performance itself, which is designed around and integrated with the core interaction. A user is invited to sit across from a vertical monitor displaying a 3D scan of my body. The piece starts off with a typical recording of a guided meditation before sliding into commentary and revealing the half-grotesque, half-humorous connection between the user’s breathing and my 3D scan: when a user inhales, I inflate, and when they exhale, I deflate. Control of the pacing for the voiceover switches over to the user as well, with lines only playing in time with inhales and exhales. By the end of the performance, my hope is that the person on the other side will have come to a deeper understanding of what it means to engage with modern mindfulness, or have, at the very least, heard and understood me.


Class info

Capstone (UG)