In the immediate moments post-leaving Kyoto, I was thinking about the traditional arts we had studied in this modern context, as the course had asked us to do and eventually present on. From the first artist visit, to Miyamoto-san, my impression of time become slightly warped. I think this odd feeling crystalized upon visiting Amae-san. When he talked about Sen no Rikyū being alive the day before, in his practice, it made me think about how these were “traditional” arts but being propagated in the modern day have adapted; so while there is a history, and general form, from which to compare, these arts have their own space in the modern. The way I had viewed the concept of traditional art before was this vague, nepotistic entity—somewhat kept-up for the beauty, and then the other portion because it already had history. On ending the course, I began to feel that the reason some of these practices were maintained in very specific ways was a means of protection rather than a symbol of archaicness. It calls into question the idea of improvement; improvement often has this connotatively capitalist conquering at its core; even self mastery often seems a goal more of efficiency than healthy living.
As I spent more time back, more of these thoughts occurred to me. A lot of the work and practices we encountered had were either overtly tied to buddhism or had very similar ideas/philosophy; in learning about these things, there was also a certain amount of discourse on the construction of the self, as well as the self in relation to the world. It seemed to me that a lot the traditional practices were very meditative, and in a way prompted people to spend some time with themselves. I think the trip, in putting me in contact with these practices, and temples and history, has forced me to reevaluate what I have created (or perhaps some other entity that is still “me”). The class left me with significantly more questions than answers.
Though, I did come leave with a significantly stronger appreciation of the object. A lot of the practices were done through the traditional means, meaning abstaining from modern technology and materials. I think the humanity of it makes it easier then to appreciate the objects which are made in this manner; however, thinking about an object’s life, despite it being mass-produced or not, is valuable in thinking about our consumption. This kind of thinking will make me more selective, and as result give me more agency.