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artofbonsai.org • View topic - Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 8:18 am 
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 5:38 pm 
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I think the reason why most outside the art of bonsai struggle with the concept of it as an art is the same as trying to grasp the Taoist principle of P'u - The Uncarved block.
For those who are not familiar with the principle, it is simply that every part of the Universe in it's original simplicity has a power that is in the silent potential residing inside of it. It's when the simple balance is spoiled by complexity, that power changes.
I see bonsai as a never ending art. A constant evolution that will never be finished. It's the forever Uncarved Block that will be balanced and maintained in it's truest most simplest form but will never be completed because completion would mean loss of that simplicity and changing of that power.
I can see how an art lover would cringe at the idea of looking at something and being told, "but it's not finished"... imagine being told "it will never be finished"...
We are not all meant to understand things the same way. We are a rare few that can see the beauty in the complexity of a simple tree.
Now I am by no means trying to excuse anyone for lowering our passion to that of the simple "growing of a tree", but it does bring the mind to wonder about processes with which people view all things.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 6:07 pm 
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Hi Yanic,
I like your observations, and I agree with you that people would feel very unconfortable when told that their precious work of art is never finished and always changing.
When thinking about this, a few more things came to mind. When it comes to fine arts, people value them not only for their aesthetic value, but also as an investment. In addition, human nature also craves for permanence and is afraid of change. We want things that we highly value to last forever, and we don't want them to change.
Bonsai doesnt' meet the above mentioned criteria. It changes. One pays ten thousand dollars for a great bonsai, and he will be terrified to find out that next year he may have an entire different tree from what he paid all that money for. This is a big problem for a lot of people.
The other problem is permanence. Bonsai, and life in general, is not permanent. It may die. This is another thing that scares people and makes their investment risky.
In the light of the above concerns, people may just decide that bonsai is not art. Instead of being unconfortable with impermanence and change, it is easier to conclude that bonsai is not art, and the case is closed.
In order to make it easier for the public to accept bonsai as art, we need to address the source of their discomfort. In Japan, and the Far East in general, this is much easier. In the West, it will be a little harder.
Here are a few reasons why it is easier for people in the Far East:
They are not afraid of impermanence. In fact, it is part of their culture. The Budhist philosophy regards impermanence as one of its main focal point. There is not much that we can do about this in the West.
Another reason is that in the Far East (particularly in Japan), they have a solid infrastructure of bonsai professionals that can ensure that a top bonsai stays in top condition practically forever. They have many great artists and craftsmen who can do the yearly maintenance. And if one goes, there is another one who can take his place.
This is where the West can greatly improve, if bonsai is to be accepted by the public as art. To have enough professionals, so that the collectors are confident and confortable that their precious investment is always taken care of by a professional. And they don't have to worry that if the professional in their neigbourhood is not there anymore, they cannot find another one. When this worry is taken care of, the public will be much more confortable to accept bonsai as work of art.
Naturally, those of us familiar with bonsai know that change can be a source of great joy. Change is one of the main charms of bonsai. The spring blossoms, the fresh leaves of early summer, and the fall foliage is the magic that bonsai can offer, and other works of art cannot. People afraid of change need to be reminded of that.


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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:56 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:01 pm 
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May we say that art can be both a journey and a destination?


Mike


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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:00 pm 
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Much as I love to hate the very idea of an official pronouncement about art, this one is so official, it must fit under the title of this thread!

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes pride in bonsai as a 'Pastime Art'. There's no pigeon-hole for 'Arts' without an attribute:

http://web-japan.org/museum/menu.html

Perhaps it was down to Karma that the website remained in a permanently unfinished state [Hic!] despite haute patronage? The page seemed worth picking because the pigeon-holing act is fairly spontaneous. At the very least I would expect that the developers were as conservative as one might be expected for the job and did not deploy some quirky personal view of which things are Art.

Funny... Perhaps that situation is simply one of whatever fleeting kind when an answer - one answer, and only one - is mandatory for such a question? If the weight of dedicated paper is any sign, much of the fun must be in the asking: the matter of classification wanders through a wonderfully short, but intricate history of Aesthetics - as a species of philosophy - in Japan. A few samples that happened to be in my way recently, bring up bewildering wobbles around familiarly European abstractions stranded in odd circumstances:

“Unfortunately, however, even today we have not attained the truth of beauty […]. Yet, oddly, people who are confident enough to call themselves artists do not show any intention of offering an opinion as to what art is…” [Tsubochi Shoyo, What is Beauty? in Michelle Marra, Modern Japanese Aesthetics: A Reader, page 49]

I am mostly guessing that the cultural clash of restoration must have produced oodles of excruciating writings: there were honest attempts to classify European philosophy including aesthetics, and more feeding on the various incongruities... If anyone needs evidence for the well-worn saying that "no one is prophet in their own country" there is plenty to go around in the Meiji-onwards Japanese approach to western aesthetics! All in all, it may be that the ‘Pastime Arts’ were too tough to crack. Sounds familiar?


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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:12 pm 
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I would say they are right. Growing trees is not an art/visual art as they would say. Look at my 500 year oak in the yard. it is just naturally growing there. Now the displaying of trees is art. And more so the displaying of trees whos design has been altered by unnatural force to display a representation of a subject is art. And in this case the subject is the mimic of old/ancient/contorted, or any combination of these descriptions, trees of stature Thus this in definition, defines this subject or manipulation as art. If I lined up 20 natural growth trees in a specific pattern, to convey my message, it would be art. If I spray painted a tree with a smiley face or series of random spatter it would be art, or if I take a tree such as boxwood and carve said branches to form an interesting shape or mimic an animal etc. this would translate to art. Bonsai needs to be reintroduced by the terms and standards of what art is. Bonsai is not growing trees. It is the shaping, changing, and manipulating of a subject to create a visual representation of something else. and thus..... art.


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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:03 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:09 pm 
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Just my own opinion, the dictionary defines "art" as:

1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
2. the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection.
3. a field, genre, or category of art: Dance is an art.
4. the fine arts collectively, often excluding architecture: art and architecture.
5. any field using the skills or techniques of art: advertising art; industrial art.
6. (in printed matter) illustrative or decorative material: Is there any art with the copy for this story?
7. the principles or methods governing any craft or branch of learning: the art of baking; the art of selling.
8. the craft or trade using these principles or methods.
9. skill in conducting any human activity: a master at the art of conversation.
10. a branch of learning or university study, esp. one of the fine arts or the humanities, as music, philosophy, or literature.


I would consider bonsai art, but I'm sure there are those that don't agree. That's fine, everyone has an opinion.


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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
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 Post subject: Re: Bonsai is NOT Art, now it's official!
PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:38 pm 
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If everyone has an opinion then no one opinion is correct----therefore no one opinion is incorrect. There is only endless argument over the nature of the Universe and the meaning of life.

I don't want the above seem to indicate that I am being flippant about this issue. I believe bonsai is an art and I will defend that opinion till my eyes bleed reading the opinions of those who believe it is not.


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