Archive for ukiyo-e

Ten Views of God

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2012 by javedbabar

It was Alex’s last PIA: Philosophy In Art class this term. Though he was still annoyed that The Authority had made him include teens in what he had wanted to be adult classes, the course was going well.

In the spirit of Japanese Ukiyo-e – woodblock – artists, they’d examined many views of different subjects, including mother, father, myself and teacher. In the last class, Alex decided to examine God. He felt this would provide a sort of progression in the subject matter.

He’d noticed a difference in behaviour between adult and teen students. Adults had begun enthusiastically, but were becoming tired of the format he’d created, exploring ten facets of each topic in turn.

However the teens were really getting into it. They’d started slowly – due to self-consciousness caused by adults’ presence – but were now very comfortable. Whereas the adults’ thoughts were flowing like canals, teen’s thoughts were turbulent, with today’s topic likely to produce extra froth.

“God is the creator of everything,” said a woman. “It says so in the Bible. Other religions say it too, in other books and languages, but they all say it somehow.”

An older man said, “But he – or she – is also the destroyer of everything. In the Bible there are so many stories of destruction – the Great Flood, warfare, plagues, and eventually Armageddon, the end of the world. In science too – whether you believe in endless expansion of the universe or the Big Crunch, the world – at least for us – comes to an end eventually. So God is ultimately a destroyer.”

An Indian girl said, “In my religion, God is also a preserver. That is what God is doing right here, now. He is keeping the universe ordered and running as it should be.”

“Call this running smoothly? With all the hatred, war, disease, famine, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods? There’s racism, sexism and homophobia. Corruption, discrimination, genocide! That’s not running smoothly. Any God out there must be cruel!”

“But there’s also love and peace and joy! There’s sunshine and sunsets, and rainbows! There are babies being born, and birthdays, and weddings. People finding each other and hidden treasures. God is kind and compassionate.”

“God has the power to do anything. He or she is omnipotent.”

“God knows and sees everything – omniscient.”

“God is everywhere – omnipresent.”

“But is God real?” asked a boy. “Or not? Maybe God is unreal.”

“God is personal,” said a girl. “And impersonal. Sir, do you know the holy man Guru baba? He lives in Lucerne.” Alex nodded. “He says there are two laws in the universe. The Law of Attraction is that you get what you want. The Law of Karma is that you get what you give. So you get what you give. So you should give what you want. In a sense you are a gifting God. You give what you want to yourself. You make your own world.”

Thank God the bell rang. Everybody was confused. Life was no clearer in the classroom than in the outside world.

Yoshitoshi Moshi Moshi

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by javedbabar

Alex wasn’t sure if this art class was a good idea. He had wanted to teach only adults, but The Authority had a policy of community-building and insisted that classes at the Transparent Temple – nickname of their glassy community centre – should be open to all. The Official Response Document asked the question, “Do children benefit from inter-generational interaction and instruction?” and then answered it too, saying, “Yes, they do. They should thus be offered classes alongside adults.”

The school thought this was wonderful. It was a good way to stretch their resources – they could send Year Twelve students to Alex’s art class instead of running one themselves.

Alex’s first term focus was PIA: Philosophy In Art. Now with two audiences to please, he wondered if that would work well. Maybe he should simplify the topic and start with a particular style of art, and see how that went before broadening its intellectual scope.

The audience had self-segregated. Adults sat along the left of the room and teens along the right.

“Good morning everyone,” Alex said confidently. “Welcome to PIA:Philosophy In Art class. It is wonderful to have both adults and teens present. I am looking forward to hearing a wide range of views and opinions from you all. I’d like to start with a particular style today, something very distinctive. Who knows something about Japanese design?”

The teens were more enthusiastic than he’d supposed. Their hands shot up and they began calling out.

“Pac Man!”

“Manga!”

“Godzilla!”

“Transformers!”

“Pokemon!”

“Tomagotchi!”

Yu-Gi-Oh!”

This wasn’t really what Alex had wanted, but the last example was fortuitous. He decided to pick up on it.

“What is Yu-Gi-Oh? Oh, it’s a card game? The King of Games! Is it good? What are the characters like? Who is the main hero? So it’s Yugi Mutou? Thank you for enlightening me. I’ll prepare myself for battle! I’d like to introduce you to a similar word – Ukiyo-e. Can you say that?” Some of the class had a go.

“Well done! Ukiyo-e is traditional Japanese woodblock printing. Who has heard of Hokusai?”

Most adults put up their hands, but none of the teens.

“He was the son of a mirror-maker and became obsessed with Mt Fuji. He spent much of his life drawing it in surprising ways. Another artist is Hiroshige, the son of a fire fighter. When he was a child he loved to play with miniature landscapes, and later experimented with many different perspectives. The third artist I’d like to consider is Yoshitoshi. He lived in a time when feudal society was breaking down in Japan. It was a time of great chaos, and many of his images feature violence and death. So which of these artists shall we deal with first?”

A boy shouted out, “Yoshitoshi!”

A girl shouted out, “Moshi moshi!” Alex couldn’t help laughing. This was the usual way that Japanese people answered telephones.

A chant began in the classroom, with boys shouting out “Yoshitoshi!” and girls responding with “Moshi moshi!”

“Yoshitoshi!”

“Moshi moshi!”

“Yoshitoshi!”

“Moshi moshi!”

“Yoshitoshi!”

“Moshi moshi!”

Alex joined in with both chants. This class would be more fun than he’d supposed.