Ontopo BakLimSa
July 30-31, 2022
Summitville, NY 
Lenape Land

Looking deeper into BakLimSa (Catskill ZenDo): Part 8

This 24-hour retreat is a way for artists to engage the site of Bak Lim Sa and present related works that respond to the site’s intention, current use, architecture and history. We are fortunate to be given access in order to respectfully reinterpret and engage this place in a way that is not traditional to its primary use: Korean Buddhist meditation practice.

Ontopo is an experimental, ongoing project that opens areas of the site to artists' interventions which range from participatory and performative works to site-based works that fall outside of Korean Buddhism. We also encourage artists to contribute something beyond their day-to-day practice or try something new. Each time we gather for this event, there will be a dynamic feeling of hybridity, experimentation and excitement. We particularly feel satisfied when a visiting monk from Korea participates in artworks with which they have no familiarity nor prior introduction. Ontopo is very much about reciprocal appreciation, ritual exploration, cultural exchange and ceremonial remixing. 

The people that are gathered for each Ontopo is what powers its potency. The primary objective of the project is how we relate to each other during the 24 hours of the site specific event. This core value informs the structural program of each retreat which is reflected in the curatorial process. Ontopo is a safe space where everyone should reciprocate a respect for each other, as well as offer space and time that presenting artists need to achieve a project that could be in early developmental stages. The outcome of these gatherings have always been very humbling and remarkable. Your participation is necessary for the work to become complete.

The head monk and creator of Bak Lim Sa, Hye Song Sunim (sunim means monk in Korean), is a master calligrapher who is a renowned, published author in South Korea. He built this temple in the foothills of the Catskill mountains 30 years ago. It is a replica of its sister temple in Busan, South Korea. Each year a monk from Busan travels for a residency at Bak Lim Sa and is supported by volunteers who work in the office, the kitchen and the grounds. Situated on 130 acres of pristine forest land, the temple includes a short hiking trail that leads to a few stupas situated in the forest.

02:00 Arrival / setup your tents / find your sleeping area
03:00 (Main Temple) Welcome remarks + Opening Ceremony / HyeSung Sunim, Yujin Sunim, Jon Santos
03:15 (Main Temple) Dharma Talk with Katherine
03:30 (Gate Temple) Tour, tea & intro / Sei Ryun Chun
06:00 (Kitchen) dinner
07:00  (Gate Temple) Kayan / Music / Meditation
08:00 (Gate Temple) Greem Jellyfish / Music
09:00 (Gate Temple) Anan / lecture / discussion
(TBD) Jesse Chun site based work

06:30 (Main Temple) Jon Santos / 108 bows 
07:00 (Main Temple) Susu / Yoga
08:00 (Tea House) Breakfast
11:00 (Water Buddha / Top of Mountain) Khora / Living Light
12:00 (Kitchen) Lunch
01:00 (Gate Temple) Hye Sung Sunim / Calligraphy
Josh Werner / Music / (Gate Temple) Closing Tea Ceremony

Note: this schedule is subject to change. Rain or shine, the event will happen!

Ontopo Catskill Zendo
August 3-5, 2019
Summitville, NY 
Lenape Land

The Explicit Life of Plants: Part 7

We are excited to announce the next edition of Ontopo Saturday August 03 2pm to Sunday August 04 2pm at the Catskill Zendo Monastery, 180 acres of beautiful mountainside forestland upstate about 2 hours from NYC.

The Explicit Life of Plants: organized by Jon Santos with resident monk Sunim Bosung & visiting artists Melanie Dizon (Puerto Maldonado, Peru), MIho Aoki (Big Island of Hawaii), Kamau Patton (SAIC), Logan Takahashi (Ghostly), Sayler/Morris (Canary Project), Monika Heidemann (DFA), Cici Wu (47 Canal) and Xiaofei Mo (The Room of Spirit and Time).

The weekend is a portable open-studio of sorts where participating artists and visitors open a circle for music, video / installation, film screening, performance, ceremony, workshops, talks and more. You can see some past programs here. We will sleep in the temple on tatami mats. We will eat kimchee, basic Korean temple food and rice. Alcohol is not permitted and please keep in mind we will be on temple grounds but that has not prevented us from having an incredible time here many times before. Bring an open mind, bug spray, flash light, cash (for temple tip and any extra supplies) sleeping bag and pillow.

A ticket covers two korean style vegetarian meals and one-night stay in a shared space (temple stay), bonfire, sound system, equipment, all artist projects, hiking and more. The following day we will go to Masten Lake for a BBQ and lake swimming. We ask for donations for tipping the kitchen staff and any other unforseen costs. Ontopo is a labor of Love!


02:00 pm Arrival / Check-in / Orientation
03:00 pm Miho Aoki / Natural Dye workshop part 1
03:45 pm Sunim Bosung & Dukwon / Temple Intro /
04:00 pm Jon Santos / 108 bows /
04:45 pm Sitting meditation (25min) Walking meditation (10min)
06:30 pm Dinner / Temple Food w/ Kerry Clarkson + Min Hee
07:30 pm Kamau Patton / movement / percussion / performance
08:00 pm Sayler/Morris / Film Screening
08:30 pm Melanie Dizon / Plant Codex / Tea Ceremony & Sound meditation / u shaped table
09:30 pm Logan Takahashi / Ambient Music
10:00 pm Monika Heidemann / Psychic Sleep
11:00 pm Xiaofei Mo / Reading

07:00 am sitting meditation (45min) Walking meditation (10min)
09:00 am breakfast / brown rice / poached egg / coffee tea
10:00 am Group discussion / finish fabric pieces for hanging
10:30 am Garden tour
11:00 am walking meditation (forest)
12:00 pm Miho Aoki / Natural Dye workshop part 2
01:00 pm lunch
02:00 pm  Sei Ryun Chun / Closing Tea Ceremony
03:00 pm Departure from temple
04:00 pm Masten Lake Swimming
06:00 pm BBQ at Santos / Mathile house

Ontopo Catskill Zendo
May 26-28, 2018
Summitville, NY 
Lenape Land

Memory Palace: Part 6

Kathleen Kim and Helga Fassonaki will perform an experimental music work and lead a discussion on Social Justice and Art. Alberto H. Arensberg will take us on a mushroom foraging expedition. Daniel Ryan will lead a meditation and group hypnosis, based on past life regression. Ben Thorpe Brown will screen a short film he directed titled "Gropius Memory Palace". Nelleke McCowan, Aharaw, Ai Lin and Jon Santos will play DJ sets.

Ontopo Hartwood Tulum  
March 16-21, 2018
Tulum, Quintana Roo

Pre-Columbian Mayan Land

The Mangrove: Part 5

This site-specific retreat engages it's participants by deploying performative / group based work in and around the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve - an UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

To align with the Spring Equinox, we have set 6 days to explore, construct & deconstruct sonic ceremonies and improvise new methods for interfacing the earth. A Mayan Priest will lead a Temazcal ceremony along with with a variety of artist-led activities. Todd Sines & Monty Luke: Ambient, Drone & Otherworldly live soundtracks for ceremony throughout the week. Todd and Monty will also be leading improvised ambient electronic music "lab sessions", field recording and processing: free and open to those who do not have any experience. Monika Heidemann: Pyschic Sleep Singing. Mary Meyer: Wood Block Printing. Xiaojue Hu: Individual Focusing sessions, Jon Santos: Sense, Perception & Movement. Two special dinners at Hartwood Tulum are also included.

Ontopo reimagines the relationship between creating and consuming in the age of accelerated production.

Ontopo Hartwood Tulum  
March 17-20, 2017
Tulum, Quintana Roo

Pre-Columbian Mayan Land


Eric Werner, chef and co-founder of Hartwood Tulum will host a special TOTOPOS ceviche lunch (and two dinners) at the restaurant and discuss the design and build of the restaurant which is completely off-grid, runs on solar power and uses only wood-fire.

Rich Awn, Archaic Fermentation Revival: Concept, Ceremony, Workshop. Katerina Llanes, Atonement Prayer. Matthew Curry, Sound Studies. Bitu Cao Minh, Mediation as Meditation.

Ontopo Catskill Zendo
July 3-6, 2016
Summitville, NY 

Lenape Land

Listening to the land: Part 3

The focal point of this retreat was a group mediation led by Sunim Moo Ah, sometimes referred to as “Lady Monk” the resident monk at Catskill Zendo.

Eden Batki will screen Weedeater, a short film about radical ecologist Nancy Kehlm. Hellyn Teng will present əˈmit, a performative media work, Sound Bath by Sound Jacuzzi. Todd Sines will demonstrate synesthesia, Biofeedback in music and discuss zen states via technology. Kamau Patton will present a new sound based work. Rich Awn will discuss fermentation and present a new work. Nancy H. Kim and Nathan Gilbert are building an auditory space composed of cumulative field recordings.

Ontopo Hartwood Tulum  
March 17-20, 2016
Tulum, Quintana Roo

Pre-Columbian Mayan Land

Listening to the land: Part 2

Hartwood Tulum, DInner Friday and Saturday
GIan Kamal, Living Light
Riki Bryan, Movement for Meditation
Extra Terrestrial Projects, Birth of Sky
Rich Awn, Archaic Fermentation
Huy Bui, Sand Castle

Ontopo Outlier Inn
July 10-12, 2015
Woodridge, NY 

Lenape Land

Listening to the land: Part 1