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Rocks balanced into five stacks on a stream

The Zen Art of Balancing Rocks


An artist creates striking sculptures from balancing rocks that allude to Zen philosophy.

Two of the fundamental characteristics of Zen philosophy are awareness of impermanence —the transiency of every phenomenon— and paying attention to the present moment— to the degree that every action is unique and more important. Piling rocks to create forms or to defy the limits of balance, is an art-game that can be found in the most remote moments of history, and which evokes these two principles of Zen. Arranging rocks to make sculptures which apparently lack a solid foundation, is also a game of the most delicate balance: a single pin carries the weight of the world (and innumerable Buddhas swarm).

There are several artists that have explored balancing rocks as an expressive outlet —among them Andy Goldsworthy. Recently, the work of John Micheal Grab has caught people’s attention, both due to its aesthetic faction and because of its impressive balancing technique. Grab erects bridges, towers, watches and even stony structures which appear to be ineffaceable.

The most fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of ‘tripod’ for the rock to stand on. Every rock is covered in a variety of tiny to large indentations that can act as a tripod for the rock to stand upright, or in most orientations you can think of with other rocks. By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest clicks as the notches of the rocks in contact are moving over one another.

According to the artist, the next step would be to find the “find a zero point, or silence within myself.” The rock also remains firmly in the air because of the calm the artist exudes —which soothes the winds.

Grab usually works in Colorado, but travels to balancing festivals all over the world. From his travels he obtains the pleasure of travelling with rocks that have different colors and textures. His work lives in photographs but at the same time embodies the impermanence of the world. Sculptures that at times can only strive to remain afloat for a few hours, but whose maximum sense is being made, the act itself, the moving meditation of making an immobile structure.

Images: Gravity Glue

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