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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 5:17 pm 
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You are probably right Will. However I am still running into the protests, albeit veiled, that are nothing more than shoot the messenger. I don't mind people disagreeing with my article but I expect intelligent, thought out, backed up and logically presented rebuttals.
Of course I expected the fresh, (and some not so fresh) fruit bombardment when I submitted the article and in a way even that is good. At the least people are thinking about their bonsai in a slightly different way. I am reminded of your three dimensional bonsai article. That one had a lot of incoming fire but I'll bet anyone with any sense and a degree of artistic sensitivity looks at their trees a bit differently now because of that article. They just wont come out of the closet and admit it.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 11:50 pm 
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Location: Michigan USA
Vance,
When AoB first launched the Eristic section, the goal was to bring out new, off the mainstream, out of the box ideas that would not only create discussion, but also cause people to think about their own mindset and bonsai worldview. By doing so we hoped to plant seeds that would help to shape the way bonsai is viewed and created in the future.
Even if a person disagrees with an idea presented, it solidifies their current beliefs and makes the foundation stronger, tempered by debate, if you will. However, in my opinion, the real value is when an new idea creeps in and crumbles the very foundation once thought solid, chips away at the core mindset, and forces one to start rebuilding from the ground up. This happens, even when we deny it, ignore it, refuse to acknowledge it. Once a new idea is planted, it will grow and it will slowly change the way we think and the way we create bonsai.
Good, intelligent, educational debate has always been (since the days of Plato and before) a way to better understand a subject, a way to separate the wheat from the chaff, a way to bring out new ideas and test them against the fires of verbal exchange. A good debate is one in which all involved leaves with knowledge, no matter how little, that they never had before. Be it brand new knowledge or confirmation of the validity of the knowledge they already had, it is all valuable.
In this sense, the Eristic section has been a huge success here and yes, I agree that there are a few articles in it that may very well have changed the way some people create bonsai.
Your own article here, caused much debate in this thread, good, honest, educational debate. It led to the current contest we are having now, the results of which may well surprise us all, or they may well not. What your article did do was to make people think about the oft quoted statement that the Europeans have Americans beat in bonsai, hands down.
The contest will give us the first real measure, the first real attempt to pit these regions against each other and see just how true the assumption is. If nothing else comes of the contest, or your article that gave birth to it, now there will be a place where it was put to the test and there will be solid results to show.
All that aside, the contest also brought in some remarkable trees, a collection of some of the finest in the world, and some work from artists rarely seen on the Internet, if ever. It brought the two regions together in a lighthearted manner and it showed that good natured competition between artists can be had. The community came together for this contest and it is better for it.
The article was picked up by John Dixon, after he read it here, for publication in the ABS journal and off it went to thousands of other readers, many who never would have seen it on-line. The word spreads and the debate, no doubt continues.
All this from a single article in the Eristic section....yes, I would say it has success indeed.
Good article Vance, excellent debate by all.

Will


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 2:50 am 
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Location: Melbourne, Florida USA
Will Heath wrote:
I was wondering what people thought now, after seeing the entries in the North American vs Europe Contest?
I personally think both sides will walk away with a slightly changed worldview.

Will

The contest confirmed what I already believed - that there are many great bonsai in Europe and in North America. However, photographic technique has not kept pace with the great bonsai. Bonsai artists need to spend some time learning how to photograph their trees.
I was a bit disappointed with the quantity of entries. I have personal knowledge of many great bonsai not entered but I suppose I should have expected that for a number of reasons on both sides of the Atlantic.
I did my own judging of the top 30 trees and the results surprised me. I will be curious to see what the impartial judges think.
Saikei doesn't seem to be too popular in both Europe and the NA. There were only a handful of entries in this category. The North Americans seem better at it. The NA 32 Ficus Nerifolia Saikei was my favorite.
I thought the NA 85 Japanese White Pine was the best prepared tree but I really liked the NA 40 Bunjin Bald Cypress in front of the waterfall. That was my number 1.
The Eur 31 Rocky Mountain Juniper was superb - how did the US let that one get away :)

As usual the competition should encourage all participants to improve. I know I spent extra time preparing my trees for the photographs.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 5:02 am 
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Quote:
I was a bit disappointed with the quantity of entries.

Only few bonsai people use the Internet forums frequent. I know very few around visiting a forum like this one, and even fewer register or are even active. (Most just stops by a website about bonsai to look and maybe learn a little).
When you then add the number of bonsai enthusiasts who also photographs their bonsai, so they are capable of participating a contest like this, the possible number of participants are shrinking even more.
The use of the Internet is a bit overvalued, I think, among the enthusiastic users of it.
So I think the contest is successful regarding the number of entries, from what can be expected.
Regards
Morten Albek


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 6:09 pm 
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Location: Devon, England.
ABSOLULTY!!
Morten, your words are wise, as always .
This Internet thing is only useful for those that chose to use it, like "Bonsai"rules.
YOU HAVE TO BE FELEXABLE.
Peter.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 8:20 am 
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Will Heath wrote:
Chris Johnston wrote:
I'm appalled that this article has been held up for reprint in a publication.

I am excited that it got published, it rightly deserved to be and obviously those in charge at The ABS Journal thought so too. Congratulations Vance.

Will


I had no reservations submitting it to the ABS Journal for inclusion in the ABStracts forum. As a matter of fact, I feel that we NEED these types of articles from time-to-time so that we can do some soul-searching. We seem very quick to pat ourselves on the back, but very reluctant to accept criticism when we may very well deserve it.
Vance's article has, and will continue to, strike nerves in the bonsai community of the U.S. (and everywhere else). To that I have to say GOOD. We need it. If nothing else, feel challenged to prove Vance wrong. I'm sure he would be more than happy to see that happen!
A good challenge gets the blood and creative juices flowing.
John


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 8:50 am 
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You are correct John, be the article right or wrong in its assumptions, it is getting people to respond, to react, to think and that is exactly what makes an article great.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 3:18 pm 
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Holy Smokes guys, still getting response and reaction seven months latter. I am begining to feel Like Martin Luther when he posted his thesis on the door of the Wittenburg Chapel.. Gee I hope they don't give me a diet of worms.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem With American Bonsai - by Vance Wood
PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 4:12 pm 
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Fascinating!! Only way I can describe the foregoing debate.

I know I am late to the party, but I have given my thoughts (if anyone is interested) below.

I am a newbie to AoB and certainly not qualified in any way to discuss the artistic merits (or lack thereof) of individual bonsai. My own aspirations in bonsai are those of the hobbyist and far, far, far below those of the participants in this debate.

My observations are based around what I believe was the original intent behind Vance's article. I am a European that now lives and works in the US and has done so for a good few years - I, at the risk of being shot down would wish to give some observations of Amercian and European cultures and the effects they have on art generally based on what I have experienced here and living throughout Europe.

First off is the tremendous size difference. The US is enormous! Europe is not a country but a continent made up of many varying and often totally different countries and cultures - none of which come close to the geographical diversity or size of the US. (Russia is another debate - I was not brought up to believe Russia or the USSR part of Europe!).

This I believe has led to an artistic scene that allows rapid development - many different cultures are interacting with one another in a small area. Changing and challenging each others ideals One only needs to look at the architecture of southern Spain vs Northern Spain vs Northern France to look at different artisitc style within the confines iof a small area to see artistic differences. This shows the climatic/cultural/societal pressures put on an art form within just a few hundred miles. When one looks at the United States culturally it operates by itself - there are no enormously different cultures in close proximity that have the ability to influence it. Sure the East and West are different North and South are different but what ingrains culture is a shared history and these areas for the most part share a history. The difference between Texas and Montana is not the same as that between Denmark and Italy? There fore I see a lesser cultural banging of heads. The challenge needs to be there in order to advance art. I am a student of engineering and I see it most plainly in that field - there is no stagnation. One only has to look at the fine automobiles produced in Stutgart, Germany (Porsche) compared with those in Maranello, Italy (Ferarri) to see the cultural differences in just a few hundred miles. It is a different solution to a similar set of demands that are answered totally differently based on culture! To ask ones self which is better a nice new Porsche or a nice new Ferarri is probably an in-sight in to ones own background. Both manufacturers take cars to the level of art. As an aside one can look at Lamborghini - a relic of an Italian car manufacturer with all the passion, soul, heart (and other cliches) one would expect of an Italian super car with no practicallity or reliability - Audi (German) take it over and it has all the attributes it previously lacked. Is something lost? Is a corvette the American equivalant? Does it lack something because it is American? Is it an answer to the situation America has? Do Americans need a car that can handle a slalom course to drive from LA to New York on very straight roads?

My point is that America needs to define it's own standards in bonsai and art. There is no use saying Europe is the best as it is not - it is different. America needs to set it's own stadards and understanding of the art form and take them to their limits, break them and push them farther on again. An American solution is the best way. I for one would prefer to drive from New York to LA in a Cadillac than in a Ferarri - at least you would still have teeth in your head when you arrived!! A European bonsai is an expression of the culture of the creator - it is un/fortunate that Europe is a cultural pressure cooker - that the US is not. As for mimmicing the Asian approach to bonsai I have to say that is unwise (in my opinion) while there are many tremendous Asian artisits we cannot forget they are also responsible for the digital watch - I would rather have a Rolex than a Casio any day!! My point being that bonsai as all art forms should be an expression of the culture that created it. Had Walter Pall (as I am sure we are all familiar with him) been born in Florida and grown in to an artist there I am sure his bonsai would be radically different than they are today. (Apoplogies for using someones name without permission).

I guess where I am going is there is no use in trying to mimc trends as they change - culture is inherent and American artists need to tap in to this to produce the bonsai that truely reflect them, their culture and the enormously diverse country they work in. It is too easy an excuse to say all Americans are fat/lazy/take the easy road out/prefer McDonalds to real food and all Europeans are cultured, sophistcated, literate artists - as it is untrue!! However if one does take short cuts one does not produce greatness. One area that does need to be addressed in America though is that not everyone is great and not everone can win - in Europe their are still winners and losers and if you are not very good at something people are usually very quick to point that out.

I am off to read the 'Finding a Soul in Bonsai' and probably see that some one else has made exactly the point I try to.

Thanks for reading - euan


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem With American Bonsai - by Vance Wood
PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 4:26 pm 
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For someone who claims no expertise in bonsai or experience on a particular level you have injected a much needed point of view into this debate. I think your points are very well stated and reinforced by examples that are every bit as good as those points I made in this article. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond, and bringing up something I had not considered as clearly as you have expressed here.


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 Post subject: Re: Re:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:47 am 
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John Dixon wrote:
Will Heath wrote:
Chris Johnston wrote:
I'm appalled that this article has been held up for reprint in a publication.

I am excited that it got published, it rightly deserved to be and obviously those in charge at The ABS Journal thought so too. Congratulations Vance.

Will


I had no reservations submitting it to the ABS Journal for inclusion in the ABStracts forum. As a matter of fact, I feel that we NEED these types of articles from time-to-time so that we can do some soul-searching. We seem very quick to pat ourselves on the back, but very reluctant to accept criticism when we may very well deserve it.
Vance's article has, and will continue to, strike nerves in the bonsai community of the U.S. (and everywhere else). To that I have to say GOOD. We need it. If nothing else, feel challenged to prove Vance wrong. I'm sure he would be more than happy to see that happen!
A good challenge gets the blood and creative juices flowing.
John


A funny thought occurred to me after re-reading your above comment; this is true as long as you can stay two steps ahead of the lynch mob. That brings up another issue perhaps worthy of mention; there seems to be a tendency in bonsai today to shoot the messenger, honest debate with candor and good will is replaced by character assault and name calling.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem With American Bonsai
PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 1:01 am 
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Location: australia
There is no problem with American bonsai. American Bonsai is just like Australian bonsai. Perfect. Exactly as it should be.

Why is it different from European bonsai?

American and Australian bonsai should be distinguished by the allied nations post war involvement. Australian soldiers who were imprisoned by the Japanese returned home with horrific stories of inhumanity. Japan was not only a defeated nation but one with a big PR problem in much of the western world.

China was in Revolt.

Then Saburo kato was informed of a forthcoming visit to his garden by The New emperor, General Douglas MacArthur.
Decades later Kato told David Fukumoto that his heart trembled with fear. He knew only of traditional Japanese culture.
In traditional Japanese culture a defeated enemy had no worth. Japanese bonsai was floundering. China was at war with itself.
Kato feared that bonsai doomsday had arrived.

MacArhur did not outlaw bonsai. He embraced it by ordering a number of small tray landscapes for his Japanese friends.

In that moment, the golden era of World bonsai began. American values were implicit.

Call me a cynic but I summise that in that moment Japanese officials saw an opportunity to promote nurturing and caring
through bonsai. When I questioned Yoshimura about issues I had with content in his book he advised me " that book must not
be taken too seriously. I was under great pressure from my government to finish it. I was a young man who knew little of
the world"

How could a Nation where tiny trees were nurtured into works of art be a place where inhumanity to fellow man was practiced.

Perfect. The campaign was underway with no shortage of willing receptors.

As a small child I have vivid memories of discussions about bonsai with visitors to my fathers nursery. These people were
bonsai pioneers. As I recall, many were immersing themselves in Japanese culture as a way of dealing with their deep sadness
concerning the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I recall one of these men who had taken to bonsai as a result of his
nightmares concerning a Japanese pilot with whom he made eye contact as he delivered a fatal bullet. Decades later at a
convention where Yoshimura had pleaded " please don't call me master and expect me to know everything" this man later stood and pleaded " please Master, take me and show me the way".

By the mid sixties when China was entering the most disastrous decade in its great history, Japan took it upon itself
to re-invent the history. This re-invented history was presented to international delegates at a convention in Omiya. The tale was
that bonsai origins were Japanese.
They returned home to spread the teachings. No other nation knows China like Japan does. Japanese proverbs such as
" The nail that sticks up will be beaten down" were popular. Conservatism ruled. The most powerful communication of that era the SUNSET book re-inforced the nuturing and caring aspects. Individual creativity was not really encouraged.

The bonsai community was obsessed with "not offending the Japanese". The thoughts that I express here were taboo.

Decades passed before our consciousness gleaned that the origins were in fact Chinese. At last people began to understand that this was not a culture defined by convention but one where departure from convention was glorious.

Around this time European bonsai enjoyed poularity and growth unbridled by the nostalgic conservatism that tarnished bonsai in Australia and The USA. The Spanish produced magazines giving readers direct access to true Japanese bonsai sensibilities. Ilona Lesniewicz and Li Zhimin's book CHINESE BONSAI was accesible. Europeans were better grounded in their understanding.

If you didn't embody a narrow consciousness then you didn't need to lose one. I think that it will be decades before those nations shake off the shackles of misinformation. The nostalgic conservatism of teachers remains an obstacle. to those young Americans and Australians seeking bonsai insight.

Discussions such as this are invaluable.

Cheers

Lindsay


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem With American Bonsai
PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 10:39 am 
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Location: Upstate New York
Congratulations on your recent appointment to the newly created postion, Minister of Penjing Propaganda.
It is a shame that the good work you have done in exploring Penjing and China has taken such a "Jaded" turn.(Pun intended)
So much misinformation to dispute. It will have to wait for another time as it is our Thanksgiving Day and it is our American custom to be THANKFUL for our blessings and gifts. In our country it would be appropriate for someone who has made their living from Bonsai to be thankful rather than bitter and ungrateful. Isn't it interesting how different cultures have different values?

Mark


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem With American Bonsai
PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 12:30 pm 
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It is good that we are having this discussion even if a bit off topic it deserves addressing. America and Australia both gained first exposure to bonsai through Japan, but to make the argument that the Japanese were trying to rewrite history is a bit of a stretch.

Anyone with the desire to search historical sources will quickly discover that most of what we know of as Japanese culture was first introduced through China in the Seventh-Century. It was then changed to meet the Japanese way of looking at things, the good things were accepted and the bad things were modified. In which ever case, everything become moulded into the Japanese mind set.

So it was with bonsai; first coming to Japan in the Seventh-Century (I believe) and bolstered by the immigration of Buddhist monks several hundred years latter. However, just like Buddhism, which was not a development of the Chinese but an import from India, so too bonsai seems to have come from India. The evidence is sketchy but compelling understanding that traveling Shamans often carried around medicinal plants in containers.

It is an indisputable fact that it was the Japanese tradition that taught us Bonsai, not the Chinese. In fact, if Japan had not developed their own form of Bonsai it is not likely that any of, us now practicing bonsai, would even know about the art form except in the few places where some recent travelers from China had returned with word of the practice.

The recent history of China has been so eradicate and destructive that it was not until about thirty years ago that we even heard that the Chinese were doing bonsai. That information was not significant to anyone but those who currently practiced Bonsai, a practice sourced from Japan. So if we were to wait to be exposed to bonsai from China we would just now be getting into it. We would be some fifty to sixty years later in coming to bonsai and all of us would be newbies.

Are there some things Japan has in their past that are not laudable? Who does not? The Germans, The Italians, The Spanish, the English, The Americans etc? Somewhere in everyone's past is a scandal, some worse than others.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem With American Bonsai
PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 2:58 pm 
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Are there some things Japan has in their past that are not laudable? Who does not? The Germans, The Italians, The Spanish, the English, The Americans etc? Somewhere in everyone's past is a scandal, some worse than others.


The Danes... Just ask the English how they where threated by the Vikings :-)
Now we chop down trees instead... :-)

Regards
A Dane - Morten Albek


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