February 10th to 16th
4 hours – in shop
8 hours – in class learning tea prep and drinking
3 hours – reading Dhammapada, Ma (Insterstice) and Rubble, Ma: Space and Time, In Praise of Shadows , The Poetics of Reverie
This week found less time in the studio but more time investigating Japanese aesthetics. Both the reading on Ma, the Japanese concept of space in between things (to put it simply) introduced us to the existential background of framing negative space. We also watched a movie by the author of both articles, Arata Isozaki, that portrays the idea of Ma with a continuous looping side view of a Japanese stone garden. We had a very long, good seminar on how we, as westerners, can define Ma, since it isn’t intrinsically tought in our culture. Professor Tomoko told us about growing with that as a Japanese sensibility. She said it was the pauses you take in speech, the steps you take when going to work, or school, or just walking and thinking. She said it was difficult to have conversations when she first reached the United States because people would jump in with their words when she hadn’t finished speaking yet, but was just taking a pause. She also related it to the idea of Fung Shue, more popular in western culture. Someone stated how it is like having a cluttered room, and instead of taking away objects, you just add more Ma to clean it up. What we concluded collectively is that Ma, whatever it is, serves to show us that time is fluid, not linear, and that the boundaries we experience are merely constructions of perception. I’ve attached the seminar paper I wrote for that session.
Ma relates to Japanese architecture in that it is more about framing space than creating it. There is a goal to reach fluidity between nature surrounding you and the structure itself. Where in ancient Roman and greek architecture, you can see massive ornate columns and ceilings, a Japanese tea house has simple, elegant posts around the edges. Furthermore, the complex joinery and latice work that holds the ceiling and walls is hidden behind a simple wall or ceiling. The complexity is humbly hidden away to give a seemless, timeless, and floating feeling to the rooms. That is the closest way to express Ma with the architecture. In decorating, low lights that cast shadows on the sparce objects within also imbibe and invite a feeling of Ma.
This is in line with the Buddhist idea of nothingness, that at the core of all things is nothingness, and from this void, all life sprouts and someday returns to sprout again, yet we are all connected to it always.
Formal construction of the tea house began on Thursday. We took the rough milled beams and cut them to the working lengths we will use in the tea house. We also began creating the templates that we will follow for carving the joints. I didn’t have much to do this day since I am primarily on the joinery and landscaping team, so I helped in laying down a full scale blueprint of the tea house on the shop floor with tape. It was ironic in constructing it because it was the most hollow thing we’ve made yet, so in a way, captured the Ma of the tea house even more than the tea house will. But I have a feeling that when the tea house is finished, the physical objects will serve to highlight the Ma even better. We also finished our groups shoji screen to be used for our practice ceremonies and eventually placed in the finished tea house. I will post a picture of the finished shoji.
Next week I will began explorations into Yoga and the tea cermony and Yoga and woodworking.