You just finished touring the Lords of the Samurai exhibit at the museum and now the adrenalins are flowing. You’ve always wanted to be a samurai but can’t afford a real katana. But your iPhone is always attached to your hand and now you too can simulate a virtual sword fight with your buddy, complete with klang sounds when you block the virtual blade, with this app for the iPhone. What will they think of next?!
Archive for 'Samurai'
With our presentation of Lords of the Samurai approaching the halfway point, museum staff are busy preparing for a complex rotation in which nearly sixty objects will be removed from the galleries and replaced with a second selection of artwork. This weekend will be the last chance to see the full first set of objects before this process begins. (The remaining fifty or so objects currently on view—including the six suits of armor and all of the sword blades—will stay on view for the entire exhibition).
Just as with our regular gallery rotations, we rotate objects because they are light-sensitive. The list of sensitive objects includes paintings, textiles, lacquers, and most other objects composed of organic materials. However, a mid-point special exhibition rotation differs slightly from our permanent gallery rotations because the new objects have to fit into the existing thematic content and flow of the exhibition. With so many unique works on view, this can make object selection a little bit tricky.
This morning Nick Smith from ABC7′s View from the Bay interviewed Deb Clearwaters, Director of Education about upcoming Samurai-related programs. One of the programs highlighted was the Asia Alive Martial Arts Series which begins August 7. Kendo is the first of the martial arts highlighted in the series and Richard Hill from the Northern California Kendo Association and his associate Atsu were on-hand to demonstrate. My 10-yr old son Patrick who was observing the kendo demonstration loved it. His comment: “Wow! You can scream as loud as you want inside the museum and hit other guys with sticks?! I want to do that!” We will definitely be back for the program. Elvin McDonald is the guy filming the demo. The segment airs on View from the Bay next Tuesday. Footage of the footage courtesy of Nick Smith’s iphone.
If there are two things to learn from the 1960 Japanese movie, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, they are: 1) life is cruel and 2) it’s a man’s world.
The Criterion DVD box description reads:
…a delicate, devastating study of a woman who works as a bar hostess in Tokyo’s very modern postwar Ginza district, entertaining businessmen after work. Sly, resourceful, but trapped, Keiko comes to embody the conflicts and struggles of a woman trying to establish her independence in a male-dominated society.
Kyogen is a form of traditional Japanese theater and performance art. Kyogen can be literally translated as “mad words” or “wild speech”. This art form grew out of folk and Imperial court song and dance. Later the art form gradually divided into two branches. The more serious forms and elements further evolved into the masked no drama, the more comic forms and elements evolving into kyogen. Eventually lineages or schools of kyogen came into prominence and codified many of the traditions. I could go on and on about the history of kyogen and the intricacies of the art form, but that type of discourse is best left to my far more eloquent and expert colleagues.
In addition to masks, helmets (kabuto) were an important part of the samurai uniform. Made of metal and decorated with materials like wood, fur, feather and bone, the helmet’s features were both decorative and functional, distinguishing samurai from one another and protecting their necks from the sharp sword blades of their enemies. With the extra material added to the design you’d think the helmet was one of the heavier elements of the samurai’s uniform. In fact, they only weighed about 5 lbs—depending upon the type of armor, this was anywhere between 1/5 to 1/10 of its total weight. Of course, I wouldn’t choose to wear a 5 lb. baseball hat around all day while trying to play Guitar Hero, calculate the square root of pi and hang out with my friends. I’m just sayin’.
Would you like to make your own samurai helmet? Click here and have fun!
The Albany Bulb, simply known as “The Bulb,” is a place of eerie mystery, organic / organized chaos, brackish breeze, and simple beauty. A former landfill, it’s a local unique wonder; as if you rolled a dog park, wetlands, outdoor art gallery, and Mad Max into one destination. And it offers great views of SF and beyond! Check out the short wiki entry for interesting historical, cultural, and political history. Fascinating place.
In the “sculpture garden,” there were lots of entities created from all sorts of found objects and urban junk. There was even a samurai:
Here’s another sculpture (“tortured witch,” I like to call it):
If you’re curious, you can see more photos here. As a perpetually shifting landscape, it probably warrants periodical visits. Your dog will thank you too.
Have you seen any interesting “Asian”-esque outdoor art recently?
Part of the Lords of the Samurai special exhibition is a programming space called the Daimyo for a Day Art and Activity Room. One element of this space is a poetry corner, where we’ve invited visitors to try their hand at Japanese collaborative poetry called renga.
Renga is a form of traditional Japanese poetry where multiple poets take turns composing alternating sections of the poem. Popular with samurai, participants also came from all walks of life: farmers and priests, rivals and friends. Renga is made up of repeating verses of two stanzas.The first stanza is made of three lines in a 5-7-5 syllable structure, a pattern that was the basis for modern haiku poetry.The second stanza is made of two lines in a 7-7 syllable structure.
We discussed the nine-planet crest of the Hosokawa family in the context of the exhibition Lords of the Samurai. The Hosokawa daimyo family adopted a crest that consisted of eight circles appearing to orbit a larger ninth circle. The term nine planets might suggest the nine planets of our solar system (if we allow Pluto), but of course there is no direct correspondence between the nine-planet motifs of Asian tradition and the nine planets of modern astronomy.
The English word planet comes from a Greek word meaning “wanderer.”
So I have this great idea for an exhibit. The de Young museum has their Bouquets to Art, the Asian can do an ikebana show. What is ikebana? It’s the Japanese art of flower arrangement but it’s much more than that. It’s really a disciplined art form using minimalism such that an arrangement may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves. The container is also a key element of the composition. It is said that the samurai used ikebana along with the tea ceremony to focus their concentration and gain peace of mind before going into battle. Pair it with some artwork from the museum’s permanent collection or it can just stand on its own and I think this could be a good exhibit, plus a new flower arrangement can be setup after a week to keep it fresh. What do you think?