Saturday, March 15, 2014

Instuction 3: Eastern Calligraphy and The Westerner’s Notion of Art

The last significant instruction that I think Jullien has to offer readers can be found in the second part of The Propensity of Things. This part of the book focuses on the contrasting difference between Western and Eastern forms of art. It is here that another question arises concerning an appropriate response and behavior towards art, which will aid in developing our last instruction. 

For this last instruction, the question we are encouraged to give attention to is built from the previous post’s question concerning how we should respond to the Chinese’s notion of tendency and shi. Now that we know that we should take full advantage of opportunities as they are presented to us and explore them inside and out. How does our art forms and the Chinese art forms mirror how we should respond and behave?
Before I get into how the East produce, replicate, and define art, it is necessary that I talk about how art forms are manifested within the West. For Westerners, particularly with the rise of the information and digital age, art has become something that people are expected to possess and produce. Because of this model and understanding of art, anything and everything is art. The aura of creativity and originality that art possessed years back has been forgotten do to technologies such as printers, 3D printers, image manipulation software, and cameras. In this day and age, we are all artist.

For the Chinese, art isn’t something to be possessed or replicated for many to produce. The Chinese understood that for art to be art it had to maintain this sense of aura and originality that was identified in the precise stroke of a brush to write calligraphy. For the Chinese interest in painting, calligraphy, and narration were forms to reflect movement and occupancy of space. In contrast Western art, concerns itself with two things: logic and mimesis. To validate these points, I turn my attention to some key statements made about both regions interest and understanding of art as a form shi and, conversely, art as a form of mimesis. 

Concerning Chinese calligraphy, “shi can be defined overall as the force that runs through the form of written character and animates it aesthetically ‘when shi comes do not stop it; when it departs, do not hinder it’… On the one hand there is the ‘configuration’ (of various elements making up the strokes in the ideogram), on the other, the ‘potential’; on one hand, one ‘considers’ the ‘form’ of the characters from the perspective of its appearance, on the other one ‘pursues’ the shi through the lines traced, appreciating the effects of tension produced by the alternation of different strokes” (76-77).

The shi in the art of calligraphy is different than the shi that came into being in the art of Chinese painting. Even though a transformation occurs between the two forms, the nature of the shi (as this tendency towards or inherent nature) remains the same.  Shi set to occupy space as oppose to focusing on the energy or form produced from movement. “Shi creates its effect of tension at the exact boundary between the visible and invisible, where the explicit nature of the configuration becomes more richly charged with implicit meaning, emptiness becomes allusive and the finite and the infinite illuminate and reinforce one another. Shi starts out as a painterly technique; but it also and inevitably provokes emotion” (83-84).

The coming together of the various properties of the shi is best realized in the Chinese’s motif of the dragon, which shows the intersections of space and from. As displayed, the dragons’ infinite bodies “are the ‘lifelines’ (shi) in which cosmic energy never cease circulating, like breath coursing through its veins.  In the bends of this body, where the downward slopes curves upward, the geomancer perceives an accumulation of vitality, a point where beneficent influences are richest and from which they can best be spread” (153). The dragon motif allows us to see an emphasis placed on both form and the occupancy of space: the coiling of each body into one entity and the illusion that the bodies seem to be engulfing each other.

Instruction 3: Derived from above, the next instruction to develop this metaphysics for electracy is to understand how various art forms in the west reflex us personally or better yet how we reflect our art forms.  Look at art form of the West (novels, photography, and poetry) and compare it to art forms of the East (calligraphy, paintings, and novels). As stated earlier, the west relies on mimesis—imitation as a form of art.  Much like the popcycle in our mystories, we must inquiry and ask ourselves how the art whether it be literature, painting, or a movie has shaped our identity. How has this artifact aided in the creation of one self?

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