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artofbonsai.org • View topic - The Principle of the Steelyard in Bonsai Display
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 Post subject: The Principle of the Steelyard in Bonsai Display
PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 9:49 pm 
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This thread is for discussion of the article by Carl Bergstrom: "The Principle of the Steelyard in Formal Bonsai Display."


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Walter,
I'd like to stress that in the steelyard article, I did not mean to promote traditional formal display, but rather I hoped to make an effort to understand it. If we are going to reinvent formal display in a Western cultural context, we would do well to understand the artistic foundations of why Japanese formal display works so well, at least within its own cultural context.

I personally enjoy traditional display, and I seek to deepen my own understanding and appreciation and ability to engage in this sort of display --- but that I agree wholeheartedly with you that for most Western audiences, Japanese traditional display loses the majority of its subtlety in the wash of cultural difference. This is what I was trying to get at in the article when I wrote "To most Western viewers, even carefully planned [traditional] displays will be scarcely distinguishable from (well composed) orientalistic kitsch." The flip side is just as dangerous; I suspect we have all seen a western artist throw together a three-point display that violates most of the principles of successful composition, and yet the artist considers the production a success "because it looks so Japanese."

With my best regards,

Carl


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:29 pm 
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The word kitsch is used here a lot, and I can see why. A great work of art draws the viewer's imagination into the picture, making him an active participant in the process. It leaves a lot to imagination, so the viewer can add to it from his own experience.

A kitsch force-feeds you the idea presented, you are stuck with it, nothing to add, nothing to phantasize about.

The tokonoma display is foreign to the average viewer, since there is nothing like it in the Western culture. Since the viewer cannot relate to it, and the closest thing he can associate it with is the Oriental exotica so prevalent in the west, it becomes kitsch in his eyes.

If the viewer was more educated about the principles used in creating this kind of display, its artistic merits would become obvious.
But how can we expect this from the average Western viewer?


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Now, the problem with the above comment is that Walter is not the average viewer, and he still doesn't like it. For that one, I don't have an explanation (smiley).


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Andy stated "It must be understood that these exhibitions [Kokufu-Ten, etc] are contests of craft, not art."
Andy, have you been to a Kokufu-Ten exhibition? I can't imagine describing it as a 'craft' competition and not an 'artistic' display. I was more enthralled by many of the displays there than by that silly Mona Lisa thingy in the Louvre!
;-)


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