Thursday, 9 December 2010

'In Praise Of Shadows'

Jun'ichiro Tanizaki.(1977) In Praise Of Shadows, USA: Leete's Island Books

'...No stove worth of the name will ever look right in a Japanese room.  Gas stoves burn with a terrific roar, and unless provided with a chimney, quickly bring headaches.  Electric stoves, though at least free from these defects, are every bit as ugly as the rest.  One solution would be to outfit the cupboards with heaters of the sort used in streetcars.  Yet without the red glow of the coals, the whole mood of winter is lost and with it the pleasure of family gatherings round the fire.'

Tanizaki quite rightly questions the connections between objects in their social, functional and aesthetic contexts.  The very existence of an object as a possession demonstrates the compromises between practicality and context to define meaning and ownership.  The receipt of beauty is subjective just as taste varies between cultures, social class and the projection of the institute.

'But as the poet Saito Ryoku has said, "Elegance is frigid."  Better that the place be chilly as the out-of-doors; the steamy heat of a Western-style toilet in a hotel is most unpleasant.'

In its context of functionality, is the compromise of Eastern-style definitions of 'elegance' for the Western style consumer expectations of comfort...logic?  Or do our cultural perspectives of the object and its use completely re-define what the object is?  Both cultures are correct in their identifications of what is 'better'.

'And indeed for even the sternest ascetic the fact remains that a snowy day is cold, and there is no denying the impulse to accept the services of a heater if it happens to be there in front of one, no matter how cruelly its inelegance may shatter the spell of the day.'

The ideology of a standardised expectation of 'elegance' within all owned and used objects lacks a connection with any feasible reality.  The advances of technology and intelligence have made the minimalistic ideals of the Japanese receipt of beauty almost impossible.  The Western influence will not allow for the Eastern world to dominate their own culture.

'Japanese music is above all a music of reticence, of atmosphere.  When recorded, or amplified by a loud speaker, the greater part of its charm is lost.  In conversation, too, we prefer the soft voice, the understatement.  Most important of ass are the pauses.  Yet the phonograph and radio render these moments of silence utterly lifeless.  And so we distort the arts themselves to curry favor for them with the machines.'

John Cage 4'33" for Piano (1952)
1.Tacet 2.Tacet 3.Tacet

There is no such thing as silence.  By removing the idea of the origin or definition of sound, the sound becomes autonomous and self defining.  The dissociation of seeing and hearing allow the variation of listening to the new aspects of the sonorous object.  John cage represents the acoustic experience through the aspect of recording.

No comments:

Post a Comment