I went to New Hampshire with a couple of my friends this weekend and enjoyed the snow illuminated by the lights of our cozy cabin.
through pools of light–
The fire crackles
Drifting away from the here-and-now and the lyrical moments of life, the rapidly modernizing Japan turns towards a more transcendental view, where our sense of self keeps us firmly anchored to the realism of the modern world. To observe this first hand we turn towards the art and architecture of the time. As western perspectivalism is introduced, the Japanese struggle to ameliorate their styles with these new influences, leading to art like Okumura Masanobu’s which tried to emulate perspective with mixed success (Lecture 2/21). Originally Japanese art depicted scenes where every person is the same size, where it was not from a particular view, but rather all completely separate views. You see the painting bit by bit. This is not true with the transcendent nature of perspective, which consolidates the infinite view of the world to a single perspective. Here we see this conflict between the here-and-now and the “big picture.” In class we also compared the gardens at Katsura Detached Palace and the garden of Versailles. In Versailles “the space we see seems to conform to us, to our point of view” (Inouye 96). The gardens of Katsura instead offers you the picture piece by piece, just like the painting prior to the introduction of perspective. From my westernized perspective, I don’t quite understand the necessity of showing only a little of something at a time. In “The Woman Who Loved Love” a lord describes his perfect woman through many small traits. “A face slightly rounded, the complexion of a cherry blossom…the nape of the neck should be slender” (Saikaku 166). Would I rather see the elbow, the eye, the ear of a beautiful woman or her entirety? If something is beautiful, I would prefer to see it at its most beautiful and complete than bit-by-bit. I find myself unsatisfied by, as Professor Inouye put it, “the smallness of the Japanese picture” (Lecture 2/21).