Jim Lewis wrote:
Andy and I have "discussed" bonsai-as-art elswhere and at other times, and I respect his opinion, but I still have to ask whether it matters to anyone but a few, somewhat insecure, talented bonsaiests. Twenty years ago, serious photographers were tearing their shirts over whether what they did was art. I don't really keep up on photographic stuff any more, but I seem to recall that after all the blood had been shed, the answer was "maybe," or "sometimes," or "it CAN be."
That, I think, is where we should leave the question "is bonsai art." No one cares but us -- and, occasionally, the casual viewer of an especially beautiful tree about which there is no question.
So we can go home, work on our trees and forget about it? That would be too simple.
Nobody will ever be forced to join any art discussion, be it 'photographic stuff' now or bonsai. On the other hand nobody should try to finish such discussions just because he does not see any sence behind them. If so, it would be enough just to say: 'I don't need it.' It is not necessary to disqualify the interested ones as 'somewhat insecure' and bring down the topic by saying: 'No one cares but us'.
One does not necessarily have to be insecure to think about bonsai as it is and to discuss, what it could be. Especially the latter is less insecurity but rather curiosity. Art always includes the struggle for development and progress. Sure you can say now: 'Then make your progress. But do we have to talk about that?'. I mean we do. Remember: Once, a certain Fryderyk Chopin said about Schumann's 'Papillons': 'This is not music anymore'. And Eduard Hanslick wrote about a contemporary concerto from Tchaikovsky: 'One means to hear this music smell'. A french critic later warned pregnant women form looking at Monet's paintings. He ment, it could do harm to the baby. The respective works are old, dusty classics. That is also due to discussion, theoretical, abstract discussion.
I respect any bonsai artist who quietly works on his trees, be it in the backyard or in the front of his house. I can assure any of them that his work will find my respect, even it it are trees I hold for old, dusty classics. But please ? let us not behave as if the story of bonsai was finished and all we had to do now is producing another five hundred of them. There are so many questions open once you declare the horticultural problems as solved or at least mastered fairly. That is art: Finding out, what comes next, behind the momentary horizon. Finding out, where we can go. What else could be. This research is not insecurity. It's maybe playful, but with serious intentions. It wants to win, but no war. It will not produce harm to anybody, even if certain design experiments seem cruelly strange at first sight. One can turn away and say: 'This is not bonsai anymore' or even 'one means to see this tree smell'. But this will finally not be more than a single line in a book, that is permanently being continued. Either you are among the authors or not ? your choice.
P.S. These days, a visitor looked at my trees and shily asked, if this now was, 'what is called bonsai'. There is really no tree in my backyard I would recommend as 'especially beautiful', but the following discussion about bonsai, gardening, japanese art, nature and so on lasted hours. Maybe no one cares but us. But we are more than you would think when you think about it all. Start with my visitor and all the viewers here.