Since the 2004 release of the first Buddha Machine and up through the appearance in 2008 of Buddha Machine II, FM3 have fully incorporated the units into their live performances. “Buddha boxing” is the general term describing two kinds of activity the group undertakes on stage. As a duo, they sit across from each other at a table, each with a set of Buddha Machines in front of him. Deliberately—as if in a game of cards or dominoes—someone makes a move by selecting a Buddha Machine, turning on one of its loops, and setting it down in the center of the table. The other group member takes his turn, ‘countering’ the previous move in a way by setting out one of his machines. The ‘game’ proceeds until each has ‘played’ all the machines available to him, and a polyvocal looping sculpture sits in the center of the table as a monument to the “boxing match”.
In the solo version of “Buddha boxing,” a mook yan jong or wooden dummy custom-designed by Zhang sits on stage. Slots on each appendage hold a Buddha Machine, silent and static. Zhang approaches the kung-fu dummy, and begins to reach for the boxes with precise ‘strikes,’ turning the machines on in series and then adjusting their loops and pitches (if one is a Buddha Machine II). Over the course of several minutes the “player” creates a composition of interlocking Buddha Machine loops, and the performance ends when he steps away from the dummy.
Watch Zhang Jian demonstrate “Buddha boxing” for the ChinaVine team on a prototype kung fu dummy designed by him. This dummy is loaded with both version 1 and 2 of the Buddha Machine, and Zhang creates a dynamic sound sculpture by mixing and manipulating the loops on the devices while he “boxes.”