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artofbonsai.org • View topic - What if Traditional Bonsai Style Did Not Exist?
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 2:29 pm 
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Thanks Walter. Yes, this is what I was meaning when I referenced exceptional individuals in a previous post. There are some people who just "get it," because they have a God-given talent and ability and see into things in a way that most others simply cannot.
For instance, you have an artist's way and it seems to me (and if I remember your own observation from some years ago) that you bring that artist's way to anything you do. If you did not grow bonsai, you'd be doing something else in an artistic manner (and likely do anyway). It matters not how much instruction you received from others directly. You see into things and learn - you steal something important from everything you see. At least that is what I surmise.
In a sense, formal training is formal training - no matter the discipline. If you have an ability to get to the heart of that gestalt, it can be applied to just about anything. Surely you and others have this ability.
This business of trying to start one's own tradition is tricky business. Here in the US, it is commonplace. Take the various Eastern martial arts, for instance. There is a master teaching in every strip mall and office park. The vast majority are "founders of their own style." Idiocy. It is no different with bonsai, I think.
I have no respect for those who live this way and produce crap and teach crap. Of course there are those who truly have something to offer and who produce excellence. You gotta respect that. I just hope that they pass on their insights and "system" to others in a systematic (traditional?) way so that they're more than just a spark that dies in the darkness.
Kind regards,
Andy


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If I could make a few observations?
1. Few people like being told what to do.
2. It's far easier to get people to do things if they believe it is their own idea... at least in Western society.
3. Bonsai is an expensive pastime, if you're going to do it right.
4. There are a number of pointless conventions holding the art back, at least in Australia and the US. I'm not sure about other countries.

1. Westerners enjoy a radically different cultural outlook to that popular in the East. Individualism is stressed, over the social expectations of conformity that are the norm in many Asian communities.
2. A more focussed effort to educate the public, as they become interested or involved in the art, might work to establish a better understanding of bonsai. Of course, this is still subject to the vicissitudes of the teachers who attempt to impose their radical styles and ideas and values on their little portion of the bonsai world.
3. The major impediment I see, in our efforts to bring the concept of good bonsai to people, is the sheer cost, in terms of time and money, of obtaining a collection worth having. I'm sure I'd spend more on trees if I could justify it, like many people. There would be fewer poor trees sold in supermarkets and hardware stores, if it were possible to produce quality less expensively.

4. I also believe the art would be better developed if there wasn't this pointless obsession with growing your own stock from seed, or collecting your own trees and potentially damaging micro-environments. There's nothing wrong with buying partially trained stock from capable wholesale growers.
4a. Likewise, what's the point of the insane insistence upon only exhibiting trees you have styled yourself? I understand that everyone wants to play on a relatively level playing field but that should not stop anyone from buying pre-styled "finished" trees and enjoying them. If they want to show them, or maintain them, then they should be able to do that, too. The upper echelons of the bonsai world regularly trade and sell styled trees. Why is it wrong for amateurs to do so?
In fact, I recommend this path to people who want to get involved in bonsai. It is also the reason that I don't ever participate in the club scene, with its irritating, petty politics and its blathering masses of "It's all my own work but you bought yours as a 15-year-old stock tree, didn't you?" morons about its fringe.
Perhaps these are the real reasons there are so many who don't want to follow the traditional paths? There are too many impediments to actually doing it, to satisfy the short term gratification needs of the average interested bystander... and too many small-minded snobs lurking in the fold.


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Wow Hector, you've pretty much summed up my collection of forum posts for the past 6 or 8 years. ;-) Or did I post that in my sleep under an assumed name. Haha.
You've hit several nails on the head. And you also point out a couple of things that will never change, no matter how much a few of us would like to see them change.
Yes, Western preoccupation with innovation and independence will always be an obstacle to enthusiasts learning artistic fundamentals to any significant degree. It takes a good deal of submission and conformity to do so. That automatically limits the number of enthusiasts who will ever achieve any solid understanding of bonsai art. That will never change.
Yes, it is quite expensive to participate in quality bonsai activities. That, too, will limit the number of enthusiasts who will participate with any reference to high-quality results. This is also not to mention the fact that bonsai is in and of itself a very geeky and specialized endeavor. It is of interest to only the smallest portion of society. So we're beginning with the merest, miniscule sliver of our population and then further decimating the number of participants with other various culling methods we've already mentioned.
It is a fact that local and regional clubs and the various conventions are the most significant features of entry into this endeavor, education for the endeavor, and of community participation in this endeavor. I don't see that changing anytime soon. So the fact that the largest portion of these organizations and activities are poisoned against quality, poisoned against advisable education and poisoned against matters of artistry ensures that by and large our community will never see any significant trend toward a more healthy artistic understanding nor shape its concerns and activities around quality and artistry.
This is simply something that will not change, no matter how much some of us would like to see it change. Therefore, those individuals for whom artistry and quality are the primary issues of the endeavor will always be fringe elements and will always be working outside of the mainstream with segregated efforts. This causes us to seem and sound elitist and odd.
I'm not worried about that and don't care how the mainstream perceives of such activities. This is natural and irreconcilable and we waste our efforts if we work to change this natural balance. Much more can be accomplished by developing our own house and building our own infrastructure on more solid ground.
So I hope that for our own sake we can dispense with lamentations of this wholly natural imbalance and cease with efforts to penetrate the mainstream.
Kind regards,
Andy


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