Leonard Koren

Beauty at the edge of nothingness. Wabi-sabi emerges out of the infinite potentiality of nothingness. The distinctiveness of wabi-sabi comes from that which is so faint, tentative, delicate, and subtle that it may be overlooked—or mistaken as trivial or insignificant.

Elegant poverty. ‘Poverty’ in this meaning refers to a mindset of non-attachment, i.e., not holding onto fixed ideas or material things. ‘Elegant’ refers to a grafeful acceptance of restraint, inconvenience, and uncertainty.

Imperfection. Iconographically, wabi-sabi is often represented by the entry is processes of nature made visible. Entropy precipitates chaos and unpredictability, and this produces variety and interest. ‘Irregularity,’ rather than ‘imperfection,’ is probably a more apt term, but imperfection has more resonance.

3 thoughts on “Leonard Koren

  1. shinichi Post author

    Random finds (2019, week 15) — On what’s safe to forget, how ‘good design’ failed us, and wabi-sabi’s aesthetic components

    by Mark Storm

    https://marksstorm.medium.com/random-finds-2019-week-15-on-whats-safe-to-forget-how-good-design-failed-us-and-98e1b8cb688c

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    Wabi-sabi’s fundamental aesthetic components

    In Wabi-Sabi Further Thoughts, Leonard Koren identifies five fundamental aesthetic components of ‘wabi-sabi’ or, as he describes it in his earlier book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, the “beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete; a beauty of things modest and humble; a beauty of things unconventional.”

    “The focus of my mission became clear: demystify the concept. Translate it into an intelligible form so that all people, irrespective of nationality, could incorporate it into their worldview and aesthetic vocabulary. It seemed likely that taking wabi-sabi out of its native setting might change some of its nuances. Something might get lost. But something might be gained,” Koren writes in Wabi-Sabi Further Thoughts.

    “Wabi-sabi is gleaned from ideas articulated during the vital era of wabi-tea. But these ideas, formulated in Japan before the influence of Western philosophy and art theory, lack the lucidity and rigor we expect in our latter-day ‘useful concepts.’ Indeed, wabi-tea is the product of a mindset that eschewed the kind of explicit conceptualization that is the essence of modern aesthetic discourse. Translating a phenomenon that extends from the very tangible to the extremely abstract into a useful concept proved challenging. True, I could have just shown pictures of wabi-sabi-like things with poetic captions. But the goal was more than just an intuitive, non-verbal understanding. The point was to convey a full sense of wabi-sabi as a concept, in words, the medium of explicitly stated ideas.

    Through a vigorous negotiation between research results and personal insights into Japanese culture, I attempted to identify the fundamental aesthetic components of wabi-sabi. This comprehension was then distilled into pithy words and phrases. Altogether these words and phrases appeared to provide a sense of wabi-sabi’s essential nature.

    Wabi-sabi =

    The aesthetic other. The ‘aesthetic other’ offers contrastwith, and differentiation from, the dominant aesthetic convention. It is a bulwark against sameness. At the inception of the wabi-tea era, a Chinese-derived taste for smooth, symmetrical perfection was the most highly appreciated (high-culture) aesthetic sensibility in Japan. Wabi taste, as exemplified by irregular and rough-textured objects, constituted the aesthetic other.

    The transfiguration of the commonplace. The beauty of wabi-sabi is a perceptual event; it is not an inherent, property of things. Wabi-sabi ‘happens’ when conditioned and habituated ways of looking at things fall away when things are defamiliarized. The beauty of wabi-sabi involves perceiving something extraordinary in something that might otherwise be regarded as quite ordinary, undistinguished, or barely there. The seminal realization of wabi-tea was that relatively crude, inexpensive, domestic ceramics were actually just as beautiful — albeit in a different way — as any other kind of ceramics.

    Beauty at the edge of nothingness. Wabi-sabi emerges out of the infinite potentiality of nothingness. The distinctiveness of wabi-sabi comes from that which is so faint, tentative, delicate, and subtle that it may be overlooked—or mistaken as trivial or insignificant. The task of locating difficult-to-recognize beauty was the enduring pursuit of wabi-tea.

    Elegant poverty. ‘Poverty’ in this meaning refers to a mindset of non-attachment, i.e., not holding onto fixed ideas or material things. ‘Elegant’ refers to a grafeful acceptance of restraint, inconvenience, and uncertainty. The embrace of poverty — in a conscious, voluntary, and aesthetic sense — was fundamental to the notion of wabi-tea.

    Imperfection. Iconographically, wabi-sabi is often represented by the entry is processes of nature made visible. Entropy precipitates chaos and unpredictability, and this produces variety and interest. ‘Irregularity,’ rather than ‘imperfection,’ is probably a more apt term, but imperfection has more resonance. Imperfection also implies a ‘spiritual condition.’ Under the right circumstances, imperfection-embodied things can amuse a sense of empathy. It was this emphatic bond between objects and beholder that wabi-era tea masters idealized.

    Rhetorical considerations. In the overall wabi-sabi concept, each of the aforementioned aesthetic components is intertwined with each of the others. In order to make these interrelationships clearer, the individual components — and their logical corollaries — were deconstructed and reassembled into a single paradigm. This paradigm was configured using widely understood frames of reference. Throughout this intellectual exercise, words, though wonderful tools, revealed the limits of their utility. For example, there is never a direct one-to-one correspondence between physical objects and the correct words to describe them. Words (and ideas) have a different ontological status — that is, belong to a separate category of existence — from that of physical objects. Words can give names to things, but they cannot embody the essence of things; they can only suggest it. To compensate for the limitations of words, especially in describing something almost ineffable, I nudged my prose in the direction of the evocative. The paradigm was meant to grow and expand in the mind of the reader.”

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  2. shinichi Post author

    (Google Translate)

    無の端にある美しさ。 わびさびは、無の無限の可能性から生まれます。 わびさびの特徴は、見過ごされたり、些細なことや取るに足らないことと間違えられたりするほど、かすかに、暫定的で、繊細で、微妙なものに由来します。

    優雅な貧困。 この意味での「貧困」とは、執着しないという考え方、つまり、固定されたアイデアや物質的なものを保持しないという考え方を指します。 「エレガント」とは、抑制、不便、不確実性を容赦なく受け入れることを指します。

    不完全。 象徴的に、わびさびはしばしば、自然のプロセスが見えるようにされたエントリによって表されます。 エントロピーは混沌と予測不可能性を助長し、これは多様性と興味を生み出します。 「不完全さ」ではなく「不規則性」はおそらくより適切な用語ですが、不完全さにはより多くの共鳴があります。

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