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Organizer: Andrew Watsky, Vassar College
Chair: Gennifer Weisenfeld, Duke University
Discussant: Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, Boston University
This panel investigates the Japanese practice of constructing conceptually unified environments through the thoughtful coordination of diverse mediums. Papers will explore concepts of the ensemble in four different historical periods (Nara, Momoyama, Edo, and Showa) to gain a comparative chronological perspective on this fundamental practice. The Japanese ensemble takes diverse forms, ranging from fixed decorative programs for stable structures to more contingent assemblages of previously discrete objects. These programs serve a diversity of functions, whether religious or secular, public or private. While there is thus no single modality for the ensemble in Japan, the enduring impulse to create such environments has long been a central force in Japanese design and deserves focused study.
By examining the total environments envisioned in ensemble case studies, the panel calls into question the standard fragmentation of the arts in much art historical scholarship. The fundamental synthetic character of the ensemble, in which both meaning and formal completeness reside, obliges the scholar to respect its holistic nature. Following this precept, the papers will address several related issues: How the practice of making ensembles amplified the aesthetic, ideological, sacred, and/or political implications of the space/place. How the combination of mediums facilitated or dictated function. How ensembles represent and reflect the sociopolitical order of their producers and users. How the permanent or transient nature of the ensemble affected meaning. By putting the parts back into the whole, we hope to expand and enhance the current understanding of Japanese artistic practice.
Jinguji as Ensembles of Cultural Compromise in Early Japan
Samuel C. Morse, Amherst College
The study of the early Buddhist culture of Japan often emphasizes the influential temples sponsored by the imperial family and the aristocratic clans. Such a view gives the impression that Buddhism was readily accepted in continental terms and primarily served the needs of the ruling elite. In reality, the arrival of Buddhism in Japan initiated a complex process of adjustment between existing and imported religious practices, the manifestations of which provide evidence for how Buddhism was understood by the majority of people in early Japan.
One of the most important expressions of this accommodation was the creation of temples known as jinguji, or "shrine temples," Buddhist ritual complexes located adjacent to some of the countrys most ancient shrines. Much about these syncretic temples differed from more orthodox Buddhist establishments. Most were in remote locations potent with associations with local deities. Frequently, multiple pagodas occupied a place of particular significance within the compounds and were the loci of rituals to pray for rain and to guarantee good harvests. The Image Halls were the site of the recitation of Buddhist texts to the local kami, not as a means to gain enlightenment, but to seek protection from retribution from vengeful spirits. The statues enshrined there were often distinctive as well-carved of wood and left unpainted to remind the devout of the monumental trees from which they were fashioned.
Only one jinguji founded in the eighth century has survived, Jingu-ji in Obama in Fukui Prefecture. Best known for its connections to the omizutori at Todai-ji, this complex provides important information about the layout of the compounds, the arrangement of the interiors of the halls and the practice of rituals at the other jinguji no longer extant. Through an analysis of Jingu-ji in Obama, temple inventories and other documentary evidence, as well as an examination of statues from abandoned jinguji, this paper will explore the distinctive cultural compromises in matters of artistic production, ritual practice and religious emotion that occurred as a result of the interface between the indigenous religious traditions and the imported Buddhist faith.
Assemblage and Appropriation: The Unstable Ensembles of the Momoyama Period
Andrew Watsky, Vassar College
The ensemble of multiple mediums occupied the very core of Momoyama-period (15681615) art making; this paper will explore its often unstable nature, a notable characteristic which had enormous ramifications not only for form but also for meaning. The chanoyu ensemble, for example, was by design a temporary assemblage of objects: while the explicit goal of chanoyu was the proper preparation and drinking of a bowl of tea, the means by which this was achieved involved the hosts calculated combination of varied objects, which itself became a primary measure of achievement. The principle of treating a gathering "as if it were the only meeting of a lifetime" (as described in the late-sixteenth-century Yamanoue Soji ki) in part evinces the high value given its ephemerality.
A related aspect of this instability concerns the re-use of existing monumentsin whole or in partin new contexts to create different ensembles with altered meaning. The jewel-like core of the Tsukubusuma Sanctuary, for example, first functioned in the 1590s as the Kyoto setting of mortuary remembrance for Hideyoshis son Sutemaru, and as such was one of the most splendid Momoyama ensemble constructions. In the early 1600s, however, it was moved to distant Chikubushima where it was embedded in another building, thereby silencing some of its primary iconographic elements and amplifying others. The reconfigured ensemble became a resplendent setting for Benzaiten worship that demonstrated the potency of its Toyotomi sponsors, as impressive as the original manifestation, but used to new purpose.
Annual Airings at Kyotos Zen Monasteries: Forming, Viewing, and Recording Temporary Temple Ensembles in the Edo Period
Gregory P. Levine, University of California, Berkeley
Mushiboshi, the annual practice of airing books, clothing, and works of art during the seventh lunar month, can be traced to the customs of the Heian court and became an established event at Japanese temples and shrines. During the Edo period, temple airings became a conspicuous part of Kyotos landscape of historical and cultural wonders, commercial products, and participatory entertainments. Arguably the most famous airings have been held at the citys Zen monasteries. Short references to such airings are scattered in documents, diaries, and popular texts, but particularly detailed records appear in the guidebook, Miyako rinsen meisho zue (1799). Its entries for sites such as Daitokuji and Nanzenji include carefully formulated and prominently placed lists and diagrams that itemize and advertise their respective airings and suggest their spatial settings.
This paper examines Zen monastery airings as expressions of the constructed ensemble in Japanese art and discusses their organization, experience, and description. Monastery Abbots Quarters buildings, we find, were transformed into multi-room venues filled temporarily with dozens of paintings, calligraphies, and utensils, each of which had a discrete visual identity, history, and manner of display. Rather than random profusions of treasures or mere commodifications of artistic and religious culture, however, the airings appear as intentioned arrangements which created new layers of visual and cultural meaning and spoke to multiple agendas (devotional, historical, cultural, and commercial) pursued by both arrangers and viewers. Temporary, syncretic, and multivalent in nature, they invite study alongside Edo period icon unveilings (kaicho) and the later exhibition culture of the Meiji period.
Saito Kazos Designs for Daily Life: "Synthetic Art" and the Modern Japanese Interior
Gennifer Weisenfeld, Duke University
Passage into modernity had profound implications for the organization of domestic space and the decoration of the domestic interior in Japan. The process of rationalization that began with the establishment of the nation-state and gained momentum with the countrys increasing industrialization presented Japanese designers with the dilemma of how to adapt native architectural forms to suit the exigencies of modern life. Some discarded these forms wholesale; others pursued hybridized forms of floor and chair culture.
The celebrated designer Saito Kazo (18871955) proposed the theory of "synthetic art" (sogo geijutsu) that advocated aesthetically coordinated interior designs based on the German concept of the "total work of art" (Gesamtkunstwerk) first articulated by Richard Wagner and later taken up in the European Modern movement. Saitos concept embodied a synthesis of Western modernist design practice with vernacular Japanese architectural forms, as well as an infusion of fine art aesthetics into the domestic sphere of daily life. His organic linear motifs, inspired by musical rhythms, provided a unifying gesture for the total environment, extending from the walls to the floor to the furniture, and even to the clothing of the inhabitants, thereby implicitly prescribing the lifestyle to be enacted within. By analyzing Saitos design projects, this paper will assess the social significance of these richly-appointed interiors in order to speculate about the taste of his new middle-class patrons and to assess his larger contribution to modern Japanese design practice.