Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thoughts on The Group, on Forgetting, and Stuff

I had interesting conversations with two prospective Group members, both of whom I know reasonably well.

Both are busy people. One was feeling a little pessimistic because she's wasted time in another group, (read: lovely friendly women focused on socializing); the other a tad skeptical because she works well solo. I empathize with both. And did I mention how busy they both are?

One crucial issue is the mix of people from the same/similar disciplines; of the seven, we have two weavers, at least three eco-dyers and one felter; at least two are all-rounders with extensive experiences, textile or otherwise, and one has tertiary-level (I think) teaching experience.  We thought it's important for everybody involved to know from the start that the group is not about specific techniques in the first instance. 

What's keeping me secretly but wildly optimistic is, we are one American (lived on both Coasts), one Australian,  one English, and two Kiwis, (one from the North Island), one Scandinavian (Norwegian?,) and one Japanese, plus a couple have traveled far and wide. I'm hoping we've enough variety to gain form the mix.

An email was sent out yesterday asking when everybody is free during the month of April; we have a two-week school holiday after Easter so everybody (else)  is so busy.

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Pat said if she stays in the group, she is going for cloth-style weaving, not tapestry. In which case we could even have a sub-group and visit specialists for our own studies.

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(WARNING: I'm suffering form the First Novel Syndrome in this segment.)

(EDIT: Apologies, I had several trains of thoughts rushing and tooting in my head when I wrote this portion. I'll leave it here for now, but may rework to post separately, or delete it altogether.)

Having enjoyed Vincent's biography, I've moved on to something completely different: Edward Lucie-Smith's "Symbolist Art". I've always had a love/hate relationship with symbols and allegory; hate because so much in the West was about love, sex or Christ only; love because Ukiyoe, for example, emerged as satirical socio-political commentary in the days when "news" meant orders from the Tokugawa Shogunate.  There was much restriction on the lives of the masses, even on the supposedly ruling Samurai class; I think I mentioned this in conjunction to the proliferation of the color gray and the poetic names given, because folks were forbidden to wear so many colors.

Anyway, the masses were largely literate, but you risked your life printing newspapers, so one way was to publish/distribute symbol-laden prints.  Another was to serialize novels and especially plays in weekly installments; Kabuki, for instance, still play these scripts. 

Tokyo Asakusa's Amuse Museum  has been in the spotlight a lot because of the Boro fad, but they also have an impressive collection of Ukiyoe and a short vid explaining the symbolism in two (I think) of the pieces. When you decipher the symbols, many of prints are laugh-out-loud hilarious, but life having changed a great deal in the last 150 years, we've forgotten some of the symbols, and some have changed meaning or have come to mean the opposite of what they used to.  I'd even say because Japanese press had a great deal more freedom than any country I've lived in long before the Internet, our political cartoons declined and all but disappeared. 

This is also why some Japanese have had difficulties understanding the Western appraisal of Ukiyoe; it's the same was me looking at vanitas paintings.  Ukiyoe's subgroup, Shunga, "spring drawing", was mass-market porn distributed probably much in a similar way to proper satire.  I can't remember if Rodin and Schiele drew, painted or made prints of theirs.

Anyway, I looked for a book that explained the symbolism in Ukiyoe after we visited Amuse, but I found none I liked so I left it at that.  A few months ago I saw this at the used book store. Though curious, I dreaded once again finding a lot of love, sex and Christ in every painting, (remember Sister Wendy docos?) so it sat on one of the piles under the bed.  Late last night, I got started, and so far it's been far more than the trio in the paintings; I suspect there is even more hidden meanings in them than the author is listing.  The writing, (the book came out in 1972,) is old-fashioned and roundabout, so sometimes I need to read the sentences three and four times, but I've become interested in the collective forgetting of significant symbols.   I hope he covers the topic. 

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Andrea asked me, more eloquently but in effect: "In this world of so much stuff, do we need to make more stuff?" We agreed if we don't make, in the first instance we may descent into merely buying stuff, and in the extreme, we'll be just another eating, breathing, mating species, without much protective plumage.

Some of us absolutely need to make. If I could make music, poems or stories, and don't need tangible vessels (necessarily), I could add pleasure, memories, "pretty", (which I try with my weaving) or even shock, disgust, or dismay, without burdening the world of stuff. But because I find pleasure in making physical things,

...

ummm...

what do I think next...

2 comments:

  1. Re making more stuff... I think about that too, especially when I see really bad crafts and junk being sold in the name of handmade. So for me, as always, the key is to try to make beautiful and useful stuff that's meaningful to me, and to make it carefully and well. And Meg, few things are as beautiful and meaningful and thoughtful as your textiles!

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  2. Makes one really think, though, doesn't it. At least wool and cotton are not hard to dispose of, though I'm not sure about the dye part. One of the prospective members of the proposed group knows a lot about the end of textile's life.

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