Spiritual Messages-I : Ajanta: Small Universe

A meditative exploration of the 2,200 year old, Ajanta Buddhist Caves in Maharastra India. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has spectacular examples of deeply profound Indian spiritual art and culture. Ajanta: Small Universe combines original video, music, and poem of the director reflecting on the Caves timeless nature, including thoughts of the Buddha.

VideoTonePoems are short, edgy multimedia montages that speak to both hemispheres of the brain in energetic mash-ups of words, images, and sound. They are auteur works with video, poetic narrative, and music all created by Stevens.

An Official Selection of the Delhi International Film Festival, 2015

From the series,VideoTonePoems-I: 2014, Spiritual Messages.

DVD: VideoTonePoems: Suite I-2014:

  • Payson R. Stevens
    TABO: A Thousand Years of Prayer, Voices & Choices in the Great Himlayan National Park
  • Payson R. Stevens
    TABO: A Thousand Years of Prayer, Voices & Choices in the Great Himlayan National Park. Antarctica: Desert of Ice, Sea of Life
  • Payson R. Stevens
  • Payson R. Stevens
  • John Portillo
  • Payson R. Stevens
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
  • Runtime:
    5 minutes 22 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 22, 2014
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • San Diego Museum of Art
    San Diego, CA
    February 17, 2015
  • Delhi International Film Festival
    Delhi, India
    December 8, 2015
    India Premiere
  • New School for Social Research
    New York City
    United States
    December 9, 2015
Director Biography - Payson R. Stevens

has had two parallel tracks in his professional career: one in the field of science/science communication; the other in art and design. He was President and Creative Director of InterNetwork Inc. (1979-99) and well as InterNetwork Media Inc. (1993-2004), both award-winning science/consulting groups with clients in government, industry, and academia. Originally trained in molecular biology at the City University of New York and in biological oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Stevens also studied at the Arts Students League and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has been involved with traditional and new media as an artist, designer, writer, and filmmaker for over 40 years.
Stevens was lead author of Embracing Earth: New Views of Our Changing Planet (Chronicle Books, 1992), which appeared in four foreign-language editions. He was also contributing author and artist/designer to the award-winning college textbooks, Geology Today (CRM, 1973) and Biology Today (CRM, 1971). His film credits include a CINE Golden Eagle Award (1980) for a national PBS broadcast script on Antarctica. From 1981 to 1998, Stevens’ companies helped develop a series of sponsored Earth-science reports, brochures, posters, and multimedia projects for the major US science agencies (e.g., NASA, NOAA, USGS) on global change issues. These won top awards for writing and design in annual competitions (Society for Technical Communication, Graphis International Annual).
Stevens helped pioneer the field of interactive multimedia starting in 1987. He produced and directed ten acclaimed educational CD-ROM titles on Earth science and environmental subjects, two of which debuted at the Smithsonian Institution's 1995 Ocean Planet Exhibition. In 1994, InterNetwork received the Presidential Design Award for Excellence from Bill Clinton for the CD-ROM science-journal prototype, Arctic Data InterActive. Stevens is also an accomplished public speaker having presented at numerous conferences on the environment, technology, and design (e.g.,TED 2 & 3, US Senate, CNN, Apple Developer Conf, Doors of Perception, EcoTech, SD Museum of Art).
Since 2000, he has advised on environmental, sustainable livelihood, and ecotourism issues for the Great Himalayan National Park and spearheaded its successful UNESCO Inscription as a World Heritage Site (June 2014) through Friends of GHNP, which he co-founded in 2000 (www.greathimalayannationalpark.com). Stevens was a founding member and Board Advisor of My Himachal, a US non-profit from 2006-11. Since 2000 he has worked on the ground guiding projects dedicated to improving rural Himachal Pradesh villager’s lives and protecting the environment. His work received Project Concern International’s Hands Across the Border Award in 2008 and 2010.
Concomitant with his science/communication work, Stevens continues to do fine art in traditional, digital video, and computer-generated formats since 1970. From 1966-68 he was a member of the acclaimed Bread & Puppet street theater group (New York City). Electrographic art was in many group shows in the 1970s [see: Copy Art (1978) and Computer Images: State of the Art (1983)]. Computer art was featured in SIGGRAPH 83 Art Show (including poster) and is found in corporate and private collections. Work focuses on energy flow in the natural world, resulting from extensive time in Nature, including California mountains and deserts, Baja Mexico, the Southwest, Alaska, Antarctica, and the Indian Himalayas (trekking 1,500 km in GHNP). Artwork is abstract/semi-abstract and also reflects visualizing aspects of his meditative practice. Subject matter of works on paper is figurative and representational. Recent Indian solo exhibits include American Center/US Embassy, New Delhi (Sept. 2009), Government Museum, Chandigarh, (Oct. 2007) and the Nicholas Roerich Museum Gallery, Naggar (Oct. 2006). A 35-year retrospective of artwork and science communications was held at Southwestern College Art Gallery (San Diego, 2010). His DVD, VideoTonePoems™: Suite I-2014 was screened at the San Diego Museum of Art (2015) and is based on his poetry, You in the World (2010) and The World in You (2015), all available on amazon.com
Stevens divides his time painting/writing/filmmaking in studios in Del Mar, California and a remote part of the Indian Himalayas (Kullu Valley) where he lives with his wife, the writer Kamla K. Kapur (www.kamlakkapur.com).

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Director Statement

In October 2013, a trip to the spectacular Ajanta and Ellora ancient spiritual/religious caves in the state of Maharastra, India catalyzed a new integration of my creative expression through video, poetry, photography, and music. I call this work Video Tone Poems™ (VTPs). A tone poem is classically defined as a piece of orchestral music, usually in one movement, on a descriptive or rhapsodic theme.

I believe the VideoTonePoems™ may be a new auteur genre, using all the visual, poetic, and musical tools and technologies to express a unified vision of one individual's expression in multiple creative arts. Of course, living in the isolation of Behta Pani/Flowing Waters (our Himalayan retreat), I may be deluded or perhaps watching my shadow reflecting on my studio walls…while Plato laughs.

My two first pieces, Ajanta: Small Universe and Ellora: Living Myths, The Hindu Caves, were completed in January 2014. During the summer of 2014, I worked on 12 more and published the DVD: VideoTonePoems™ Suite I-2014. The second DVD, VideoTonePoems™ Suite II-2016, was published in February or 2016. The VTPs focus on three Message categories: (1) Spiritual Messages, reflecting on universal spiritual concepts, with some being strongly influenced by Indian spiritual ideas and cultural sites, (2) Natural Messages, portraying my experience of Nature, the issues of global climate change, and often depict the pristine environment of our home in the Himalayas, and (3) Afflicted Messages, which are meditations on the human condition, the environment, and technology, all interacting in this, The Age of Anthropocene (described as the global impacts of human behavior which include climate change, species invasion and extinction, etc.).

I have drawn on the tone poem musical form and expanded it into a conceptual and meditative collage that hopes to stop/engage the viewer in the roar of our 24/7 lives… and in that brief moment allow a connection to the higher wisdoms emanating from Spirit and Nature and how that mirrors our existential challenges.

Both DVD, each with 15 VTPs, are available on amazon.com:

VTPs Official Selections include:
• New York City Independent Film Festival: 2016
• Delhi International Film Festival: 2015
• 5th Sadho Poetry Film Festival: 2015
• Direct Short and Documentary Film Festival
• Atticus Review, October 2015
• Reviewed June 2015, on: www.movingpoems.com