An effort to first define "Display".

Smoke

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Victrinia in her zeal to put down in words her ideas for a western idea is getting the cart before the horse.

First we have to define what it is we wish to do.''Literal translations don't always come across so good so lets try to define what it is we wish to display.

Bonsai. Good word. Japanese, means plant in a pot. Great, do we have a word in the western world that caprures this better? Not really. So we are stuck again with a Japanese term.

Tokonoma. Good word. Japanese, means floor with space. Great, do we have a better word for the western world? Maybe alchove fits that discription.

Bonsai and Tokonoma are both still good words to use for our Japanese art form.

Scroll. Good word. Japanese form of displaying painted artwork. Do we have an equall in the western world? Not really. In the west we frame art.

Shitakusa. Good word. Japanese, means kusamono displayed with tree. Kusamono means grass planting. So Kathy Shaner calls them "companion plants". Shitakusa ( Shee-eets ska).

So Victrinia has mentioned that she wishes to display a tree with a companion planting/ art piece and scroll. This all sounds pretty Japanese to me. We already have some very good rules for formal/keido Tokonoma display. Why deviate? Let's assume for giggles that we wish to come up with a formal idea on how to display bonsai trees. Do we still use a Tokonoma? This is very Japanese and not a traditional way of displaying art pieces in the west. Do we use a scroll? The west has never really ever displayed painted art work by mounting in on a brocade scroll mounting, we are more comfortable useing picture frames in a more horizontal configuration. We write left to right while the Japanese write top to bottom so this more verticle configuration is normal for the east.

Do we display formally our tree on a table top or do we sit it on the floor? Do we continue to display our tree on a Japanese looking table? Should it maybe have French Provencial legs or maybe Queen Anne? Maybe something heavy and dark with distressed edges and wrought iron nail heads from Mexico?

How far do we go? Hows this for a western display. A single olive tree on a tallish table. An image of Christ crucified on a cross, and a single communion wafer on a small silver salver? For many this would be a wonderful display dipicting Christs sacrifice for our sins. For others it may be blasphemis. It would be truly western and a true religious Japanese Buddhist person may not get it.

So if displaying a tree with a scroll and an accent is what we are trying to do, then why not continue to use the tried and true Japanese model and really do that justice.

Barbara's little boy, Al


( it's almost Mothers Day)
 

Mojosan

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Why Japanese anything? No scrolls, nothing. A WESTERN display in my mind has nothing to do with scrolls. Why do we need them, unless we are trying to emulate Japanese culture? The Japanese took an art form that was once not common in their culture, and made it their own. Why not do the same thing?
A totally western display where everything is evocative of our culture. Doesn't seem hard to understand.
 

Tachigi

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I don't think Miss Vic is putting the cart before the horse. She is simply (with in the confines of excepted norms) using different implements to express western culture that we in the west can identify with. Hence making it more our own by reflecting our enviroment and thoughts. We do it with trees why not with display?

This will always be a point of contention in the western world. Are you disciple of a eastern influenced art form or a disciple of a emerging western art form that had its beginnings someplace else. If your not into evolution then Miss Vic's concept would seem strange and foreign and not pleasing to the palette.

I think Colin Lewis in his article "Bonsai as Western Art" put it well. He was referring mainly to trees themselves but think he would apply it to displays as well, considering he ponied up the prize for best western display at the 1st National Bonsai Exhibition.

The point of this culture-shock treatment is to bring bonsai another step west. There are many taboos and superstitions in Japanese bonsai, all rooted throughout society. If bonsai is anything like an art form, then it must, to some extent, be self-expressive. What we want to express about trees and our emotional response towards them must, surely, be rooted in our culture.

I am not suggesting that we all turn to Donald Duck for inspiration, but if you want some guidance on how to produce credible, emotive, highly simplified images of trees, you may find it more useful to refer to some of the better animated cartoons than spend precious time and effort trying to negotiate your way around the distractions of the cultural, philosophical and artistic differences that exist between us and the Japanese. If we try to copy the Japanese and attempt to produce 'Japanese shapes' or 'Japanese-looking' bonsai we will more than likely be frustrated.

..... In order to begin any such task we must recognise that our natural environment is an enormous influence on whom we are, and why we are so obsessed with creating bonsai. Surely, before we can begin to develop our own styles we must filter out all those bonsai teachings that are uniquely cultural, or even philosophical, and replace them with our own. Inevitably we will continue to be heavily influenced by Japanese bonsai artists, but we must learn that it is not a sin to reject that influence from time to time, and to do our own thing.

Colin Lewis
 

Smoke

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Why Japanese anything? No scrolls, nothing. A WESTERN display in my mind has nothing to do with scrolls. Why do we need them, unless we are trying to emulate Japanese culture? The Japanese took an art form that was once not common in their culture, and made it their own. Why not do the same thing?
A totally western display where everything is evocative of our culture. Doesn't seem hard to understand.

Because you are using Japanese accesories. You are replacing a Japanese concept with western accessories in an effort to make it more western. For this to be accepted we need the buy in of those with credibility. People like Kathy Shaner would be a good one. So far she is not ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.

If I take a tortilla and roll it up with mayonaise and a dill pickle, a mexican walking by will ask me where I got the burrito. Dressing up a 1000 year old culture in western cloths is not my idea of making a paradigim shift. We have to do better than changing the name.

al
 

irene_b

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I read this and am reminded of Mr. Behr and his dislike of the name Tanuki...Phoenix graft was almost as bad.. As long as it works why do we have to put a name to it? A Good Tree is a work of Art...
Myself I prefer to call them roots.....
Irene
 

johng

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I have always understood that imitation is the most sincere forms of flattery... is it art? I am not sure....but that is not for me to decide:)

I am not sure I want to be a Japanophile in order to display my trees in an artistic manner or to appreciate the display of trees.

Do I appreciate traditional displays...absolutely!! However, for me I want my displays to speak to my culture, to my experience and to the experiences and culture of the particular audience.

In the case of the display Al is sharing..I think it took place in a museum of Japanese culture and art, therefore it seems perfectly logical that it should be exactly as it was...a celebration of traditional Japanese display!

I do believe that displays in non-traditional settings should encourage non-traditional displays.

Here is an example...not necessarily a good one but the only thing that is really Japanese about the display are the two containers. Otherwise, there are no scrolls, Japanese style tables or accessories, nor is it displayed in a tokonoma. Does it tell a story?


Here are links to 2 videos that highlight another non-traditional display...again the only thing Japanese are the containers used.

Part 1http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTK4ZXmnI8Q
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmwgZpBMia8

I certainly appreciate that each of us are entitled to our own ideas and beliefs. If traditional display floats your boat than I am happy for you. For me display is always going to be about telling stories from my own experiences and artifacts.

Thoughtfully,
John
 
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irene_b

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I have always understood that imitation is the most sincere forms of flattery... is it art? I am not sure....but that is not for me to decide:)

I am not sure I want to be a Japanophile in order to display my trees in an artistic manner or to appreciate the display of trees.

Do I appreciate traditional displays...absolutely!! However, for me I want my displays to speak to my culture, to my experience and to the experiences and culture of the particular audience.

In the case of the display Al is sharing..I think it took place in a museum of Japanese culture and art, therefore it seems perfectly logical that it should be exactly as it was...a celebration of traditional Japanese display!

I do believe that displays in non-traditional settings should encourage non-traditional displays.

Here is an example...not necessarily a good one but the only thing that is really Japanese about the display are the two containers. Otherwise, there are no scrolls, Japanese style tables or accessories, nor is it displayed in a tokonoma. Does it tell a story?


Here are links to 2 videos that highlight another non-traditional display...again the only thing Japanese are the containers used.

Part 1http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTK4ZXmnI8Q
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmwgZpBMia8

I certainly appreciate that each of us are entitled to our own ideas and beliefs. If traditional display floats your boat than I am happy for you. For me display is always going to be about telling stories from my own experiences and artifacts.

Thoughtfully,
John
I Love it John!!
 

kakejiku

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Scroll. Good word. Japanese form of displaying painted artwork. Do we have an equall in the western world? Not really. In the west we frame art.

You used the English word, and not the Japanese word as used in bonsai, toko no ma etc. The first word that should be learned is Hyousou. Hyousou is the art of framing which includes more than scrolls. (Fusuma, Byoubu, Shouji, Panel Hari etc.) The general term for a scroll would be Kakemono or even a technically better term to use would be Hyougu. Kakemono is so broad that it could be applied to anything being hanged, although it is usually referring to scrolls.

Hyougu is the best term to use in Japanese for the depiction of a scroll.

Even hyousoushi who are making scrolls refer to it as framing art work.
 

Mojosan

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Because you are using Japanese accesories. You are replacing a Japanese concept with western accessories in an effort to make it more western. For this to be accepted we need the buy in of those with credibility. People like Kathy Shaner would be a good one. So far she is not ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.

If I take a tortilla and roll it up with mayonaise and a dill pickle, a mexican walking by will ask me where I got the burrito. Dressing up a 1000 year old culture in western cloths is not my idea of making a paradigim shift. We have to do better than changing the name.

al

What exact accessories are you speaking of? A pot? a stand? I fail to see how these are exclusively Japanese. Display stands and plant pots are not exclusive to Japan nor bonsai. I'm not talking about the type of displays that you have shown recently. I am talking about escaping from the "alcove" concept altogether.
Your example of the mayo/pickle is right on. The Mexicans are not the only culture that uses wraps for quick and easy meals. If I had that pickle and mayo roll, a Norwegian walking by would ask me where I got the lefsa. The point is, everyone has their perspective, but we all would recognise it as food (art). We just have our own slant on how it should be presented.
 

cbobgo

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Another way to look at this is to think about what we are trying to accomplish when displaying a bonsai, and what do the Japanese try to accomplish when they display a bonsai in a traditional tokonoma.

They are not just showing their tree. If all they were wanting to accomplish was to allow their tree to be seen, then they'd probably put it up on a pedastal at easy viewing level and make sure there was good light on it (sound familiar?)

But what they are trying to do is express the message or feeling that the tree is trying to communicate. To add to the image of a big old tree in nature, at a certain time of year, in a certain location.

So, what we need to think about is how do we go about expressing the message or feeling of our tree, in a way that a person from a Western culture can understand without a glossary of Japanese terms?

Do we just let the tree speak for itself, in an independant, self reliant Western sort of way? Or are there things that we can add to help the viewer easily understand what we are hoping to convey?

- bob
 

Smoke

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Scroll. Good word. Japanese form of displaying painted artwork. Do we have an equall in the western world? Not really. In the west we frame art.

You used the English word, and not the Japanese word as used in bonsai, toko no ma etc. The first word that should be learned is Hyousou. Hyousou is the art of framing which includes more than scrolls. (Fusuma, Byoubu, Shouji, Panel Hari etc.) The general term for a scroll would be Kakemono or even a technically better term to use would be Hyougu. Kakemono is so broad that it could be applied to anything being hanged, although it is usually referring to scrolls.

Hyougu is the best term to use in Japanese for the depiction of a scroll.

Even hyousoushi who are making scrolls refer to it as framing art work.


babysteps grasshopper.....
 

Smoke

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I have always understood that imitation is the most sincere forms of flattery... is it art? I am not sure....but that is not for me to decide:)

I am not sure I want to be a Japanophile in order to display my trees in an artistic manner or to appreciate the display of trees.

Do I appreciate traditional displays...absolutely!! However, for me I want my displays to speak to my culture, to my experience and to the experiences and culture of the particular audience.

In the case of the display Al is sharing..I think it took place in a museum of Japanese culture and art, therefore it seems perfectly logical that it should be exactly as it was...a celebration of traditional Japanese display!

I do believe that displays in non-traditional settings should encourage non-traditional displays.

Here is an example...not necessarily a good one but the only thing that is really Japanese about the display are the two containers. Otherwise, there are no scrolls, Japanese style tables or accessories, nor is it displayed in a tokonoma. Does it tell a story?

I certainly appreciate that each of us are entitled to our own ideas and beliefs. If traditional display floats your boat than I am happy for you. For me display is always going to be about telling stories from my own experiences and artifacts.

Thoughtfully,
John

Beautiful display and very evocative. Not very traditional and a great piece for a display atmosphere. I get the feeling that I am looking at more than just a couple trees, and that is a good thing.

You guys seem to forget that I have posted pictures of my trees in a display setting for over a decade. So I know first hand just how hard it is to make a display of trees and accesories convincing and thought provoking. You are preaching to the choir.



What exact accessories are you speaking of? A pot? a stand? I fail to see how these are exclusively Japanese. Display stands and plant pots are not exclusive to Japan nor bonsai. I'm not talking about the type of displays that you have shown recently. I am talking about escaping from the "alcove" concept altogether.
Your example of the mayo/pickle is right on. The Mexicans are not the only culture that uses wraps for quick and easy meals. If I had that pickle and mayo roll, a Norwegian walking by would ask me where I got the lefsa. The point is, everyone has their perspective, but we all would recognise it as food (art). We just have our own slant on how it should be presented.

Didn't say plant stands were exclusivly Japanese. Just that we tend to be drawn to tables with Asian lines. I have seen tables from all over the world, and I have yet to see any really nice tables that don't have some hint of Asian flare to them. There is a guy on ebay that sells some stands with a sort of Native American look that I despise with all my soul.

As far as a wrap, a burrito or a lefsa, it still has one thing in common, it is recognizable all over the world. It has withstood the test of time. We make the wrap out of basil, sundried tomatoes, show whole basil leaves in the dough what ever...the point is it has still remained a piece of dough rolled out thin and baked till cooked and used to wrap food. It works and it is not broken so why change it.

Now if you wish to take the mayonaise and dill pickle and wrap it in a banana leaf and deep pit BBQ it and call it bananadong, be my guest. Don't cry when the world looks at you a little crazy and is not ready to dig a pit in their back yard. Don't forget I stepped wayyy out of the box last year with my display entry that was totaly where I live. I got my pee pee slapped and I dialed back this year and reaped some reward. The world is not ready for "my thing" yet. Baby steps!

Another way to look at this is to think about what we are trying to accomplish when displaying a bonsai, and what do the Japanese try to accomplish when they display a bonsai in a traditional tokonoma.

They are not just showing their tree. If all they were wanting to accomplish was to allow their tree to be seen, then they'd probably put it up on a pedastal at easy viewing level and make sure there was good light on it (sound familiar?)

But what they are trying to do is express the message or feeling that the tree is trying to communicate. To add to the image of a big old tree in nature, at a certain time of year, in a certain location.

So, what we need to think about is how do we go about expressing the message or feeling of our tree, in a way that a person from a Western culture can understand without a glossary of Japanese terms?

Do we just let the tree speak for itself, in an independant, self reliant Western sort of way? Or are there things that we can add to help the viewer easily understand what we are hoping to convey?

- bob

At the turn of the century The swiss were still making the best pocket watches in the world. Everyone had a pocket watch. It was convenient and it was accurate. It kept the railroads on time and everyone was happy. And then something happened. Some inventive guy decided that watch could be worn on the wrist and this was even better to see. No more did a person have to reach in their pocket and pull out a watch. It was right there to see. The Swiss? They said this new idea would never work. Wrist watches was a paradigm shift in the way time would be forever read. It has stood the test of time.

Has Favor Flav made the next paradigm shift?

I am easily convinced when someone steps up to the batters box and takes a cut.....
 

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"Do I appreciate traditional displays...absolutely!! However, for me I want my displays to speak to my culture, to my experience and to the experiences and culture of the particular audience."

This is the problem with "western display" for bonsai in a nutshell. However, trying to strictly impose your "Western" experience through an Asian art (there is no Western equivalent of bonsai, there isn't even a rough approximation--it is alien to the West).

That means imposing unvarnished Western principles on it results in earnest, but mostly oddly jarring, mostly unsatisfying display--I can't help but point to Mr. Pall's display of "tree art" in Vic's original thread. I find it oddly cold and offputting. The trees look jammed together waiting in line to depart on the moon shuttle in "2001--A Space Oddessy." I kept looking for Stanley Kurbrick on the sidelines...

While I like John's photo display, I don't think it is as satisfying as it might have been. I think (and this is just me) that photos tend to be too "real" for use in what is basically a hand-crafted art. It offers no room for imagination--and that is what is really at the heart of bonsai, human imagination and interpretation.

I think there is room in the existing Japanese display (kei do) to incorporate a more Western feeling. for instance, sure, kakejiku is an Asian artform, but it can still be bent to western tastes--bonsai has been, hasn't it? There are more than a few Western painters out there capable of using sumi methods and sensibilities to interpret Western landscapes and subjects.

Here's an artist local to me that does Western and Asian sumi and watercolor:

http://www.theartistictype.com/2008/09/eugene-b-smith/

Thinking that we must re-invent the display wheel throws the baby out with the bathwater:). We don't. The same display principles (some of them are proportional and mathematical and tend to work visually--a long wall kakejiku balances the height of a bonsai next to it, providing a counterweight that a traditional western framed painting doesn't. Displaying a tree in a space--not in open air--provides context and centers attention on the tree. A display with no borders tends to minimize the tree and makes it look, well, small...
 
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I have no idea how I missed this thread for days... :p

At any rate... Smoke... is it your contention then that it's not good to try and incorporate something relevant to us culturally in the confines of traditional forms/modalities of display? I just want a yes or no. :)

I have a huge amount of respect for the amount of time and effort you have put into studying display... and know I am only scratching at the surface like a child. I'm ok with that... it leaves me room to grow. Do recommend that it's not wise to try and think of western concepts and that I should focus my time on the indepth symbolisms inherent to Japanese traditions? I have no doubt I would love it very much... I want to have my carts in the right order.

Maybe the trick is similar to all the "rules" of bonsai... know them throughly before you walk away from them. I'm not trying to circumnavigate anything... but we also have very little access to the kinds of opportunities for learning this that you do in CA. We have no museum remotely approprieate for this sort of thing... and in fact I wasn't aware of the show you went to until I saw your thread. I already want to make sure I attend it next year... because I find the whole thing so fascinating.

Yours most kindly,

Victrinia
 

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I have no idea how I missed this thread for days... :p

At any rate... Smoke... is it your contention then that it's not good to try and incorporate something relevant to us culturally in the confines of traditional forms/modalities of display? I just want a yes or no. :)

No

Ok the caveat: With a bonsai being such a Japanese abborition, it seems redundent to try and improve on something that has already been tried and true. In the west we have never been a subtle people. We are bold and colorful and full of neon. While parts of the west seem to have the right feelings for bonsai I don't see any need to replace Japanese articles with western counterparts. When you get right down to the nitty gritty, you explain to me what made my display this year Japanese? Absolutely nothing. Cherry trees grow here. Maples grow here, and religions here meditate. I see no Asian correlation except in peoples minds.

My teacher, this years winner, showed a Monterey Cypress that looks just like the cypress trees that grow around his home town. It was displayed with a Japanese painted scroll and an expensive imported Japanese table but it was all American if you ask me. I think we are blending some ideas but it needs to be subtle. We are not ready for images of Yosemite yet. We still have many years of getting it right before switching the track and lettinng the train venture down the track seldom used.

I have a huge amount of respect for the amount of time and effort you have put into studying display... and know I am only scratching at the surface like a child. I'm ok with that... it leaves me room to grow. Do recommend that it's not wise to try and think of western concepts and that I should focus my time on the indepth symbolisms inherent to Japanese traditions? I have no doubt I would love it very much... I want to have my carts in the right order.

Maybe the trick is similar to all the "rules" of bonsai... know them throughly before you walk away from them. I'm not trying to circumnavigate anything... but we also have very little access to the kinds of opportunities for learning this that you do in CA. We have no museum remotely approprieate for this sort of thing... and in fact I wasn't aware of the show you went to until I saw your thread. I already want to make sure I attend it next year... because I find the whole thing so fascinating.

Yours most kindly,

Victrinia

Most definately there has to be rules or guidelines. In a judged competition there always has to be something that decides which is best and which is not up to snuff. I found it entertaining that those displays that were chosen after I posted all the trees were those that had great trees in them. My tree paled in comparison to those presented by Boon and Jim Gremel, Kats Kinoshita (winner), Seiji Shiba and Peter Tea (SOB). My trident was a runt compared to them. What I had second best of all was the story, the subtlety, the Ma (space) and the harmony. It was quiet. Other displays were loud and competed for who was loudest.

One way to look at it is "I didn't have the second best display, I had the second least wrong display".

I'm still working towards "Best".

Al
 
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I totally agree with everything you said... especially in the part about the recent display competition. There was not a lot (except for a few) which relied heavily on Japanese concepts to define them.

Interestingly yours was very quiet... it is why I passed it over other than acknowleding that it was technically correct. I also think it's difficult to appreciate the subtlety of it when you are looking at a photo and unable to appreciate the Ma, as you put it. But when I looked back at it later, after you revealed the winners there was no doubt in my mind why it placed so well.

Being the best of anything is overrated. Mostly because it becomes a pissing match (sorry for being vulgar) to stay in that spot... though it's inevitable that one will be knocked out of it. Best like everything else is subjective and fleeting. To my mind it is much better to turn the journey inward and be a seeker.

Here's to seeking........... :cool: Thank you for the enlightenment.

Yours most kindly,

Victrinia
 

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Best is what motivates to learn. If you do not seek to be best then apathy will follow.

I don't want to just settle, I have goals. Goals and best are interchangable words.


seeking......? Seeking what?

Mediocrity? Apathy?

Never!
 
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Seek excellence based on your own measure and not on the external measure of someone else's opinion. One will line with the other when it is warranted... on both accounts.

You are so dramatic... it's a good thing I adore you...lol :D:D:D

Or are you just in need of some ichiass cream already and you are just wound up?

*muah*

V
 
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Smoke

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Seek excellence based on your own measure and not on the external measure of someone else's opinion. One will line with the other when it is warranted... on both accounts.

You are so dramatic... it's a good thing I adore you...lol :D:D:D

Or are you just in need of some ichiass cream already and you are just wound up?

*muah*

V

Spoken like someone who has not thrown a hat into the competition ring. Trust me there is room for both, and I do both.

Why work with Daniel? Seek your own path?
 

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