Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Big Man Shrinking

I am beginning to think that I am in the movie remake of Alice-in-Wonderland; always trying to find the right size to negotiate a whirlwind of new cultural experiences. Living here in our very small, Kyoto apartment is a daily exercise of being constantly aware of finite spatial limitations and how to get along with less action. Everywhere we go I am constantly amazed by the delicate nature of how the Japanese people negotiate the confines of space. Being an American, I am so use to such little physical restraint. Perhaps this is a big lesson on shifting my focus to micro space and to become more attuned with the meaning and value of action and repose.

Jane and I are here in Kyoto for five months due to her efforts. She was one of five Americans that received the 2011 JUSFC-NEA Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship. She is studying pilgrimage circuits, spatial relationships around  temples and shrines and at Washi (Japanese paper making traditions).

The Japanese have a long history in creating expansiveness within the confines of boundaries. This is most apparent in Japanese gardens. Limited to a select few specimens of plant material, moss, rocks and gravel these elements form a relationship which creates an abstract image that is reductive, contemplative and expansive. A good example of this is the Ginkaku-ji Temple (The Silver Pavilion).  

The Ginkaku-ji Temple garden is a conceptually complex garden which consists of two very contrasting sections. One is a more traditional (pond)strolling garden much like you would see if you looked at an old Chinese scroll painting.

The other section is a dry sand garden and more conceptually challenging. It consists of two sculptural mounds of sand; a truncated cone reminiscent of Mt.Fuji (or the mountain of Buddism) juxaposes the lower, horizontal mound which represents "the sea of silver sand"because by moonlight it ppears silver. This section is a garden to liik upon in contemplation, the other is one to walk through.

Combining the two types of gardens into one integrated whole offers the visitor a unique sense of balance and wonderment at a not silver, Silver Pavilion.

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