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 Post subject: Where Are The Innovations?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:43 am 
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Where Are The Innovations?
by Will Heath

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Somewhere, long ago, maybe someone had the brilliant idea to put a plant into a pot of sorts so that the healing herb would be close at hand and would not need to be searched for when needed. Maybe instead, a plant was found growing out of a rock and the rock was carried home with its attached growth, where it no doubt was quite a conversation piece until it died. Maybe potted plants were invented as a way simply to keep plants alive during a journey.

This went on for many years and with many failures until the correct soil, watering, and care was finally mastered. These plants in pots were at first no doubt just for the convenience of being able to pull a leaf off here and there for tea or healing. Maybe plants were first potted in order to transport the plants over long distances.

Regardless of how plants were first introduced to pots, eventually someone started picking creatively and some shapes that were pleasing were created. Naturally, trimming and pruning for eye appeal soon followed and became the clip and grow method. The simple act of keeping a plant alive turned into a decoration.

Rough pots turned to highly finished works of art and the styles of what we now know as bonsai were defined. Rules were made, schools were formed and the art of bonsai was created.

Then along came ways to achieve this art, tools and techniques unheard of before like wire, concave cutters, soiless mixes, grafting, trunk chops, air layering etc were invented and expanded the art form.

And then, silence.

It would seem that we have come to a standstill, and the innovations have stopped. Is there nothing else to learn? Are there no other undiscovered techniques? Is there now so much to learn that there is no time left to experiment, to invent? Will we have to wait centuries to see any changes at all in the art? Will we suffer from stagnation?


Last edited by Will Heath on Tue Jan 29, 2008 1:34 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 09, 2005 1:17 pm 
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Location: south of Munich, Germany
Go there
http://internetbonsaiclub.org/smf/Itemi ... c,15981.0/
to see what wonderful encouragement one gets for innovations. The bonsai fundamentallists try hard to keep the status quo.
greetings
Walter


Last edited by Walter Pall on Sat Jul 09, 2005 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2005 7:37 am 
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Walter Pall wrote:
Go there
http://internetbonsaiclub.org/smf/Itemi ... c,15981.0/
to see what wonderful encouragement one gets for innovations. The bonsai fundamentallists try hard to keep the status quo.
greetings
Walter

Walter,
I much prefer those types of bonsai to the accepted "cookie-cutter" versions that seem to inundate the art. The trees you posted on the above hyperlink are wonderful examples of artistic skill being used to emulate naturally occurring trees. I mean, you even posted photos of natural settings with the candlebra appearance, and still some doubt it is good bonsai. This puzzles me, and it always seems like the general challenge is "are all naturally-occurring trees good bonsai subjects". That's nonsense being used to argue, and nothing else. I for one love the innovation of naturalistic bonsai, and that is where I find my motivation.
Those bonsai are wonderful, and last time I looked, the "isolationistic" stance of Japan ended over a hundred years ago. Maybe some people in bonsai should realize that too.
John


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 11:39 am 
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I don't think that we will see any breakthrough innovation in our lifetime. But bonsai is slowly changing, as people from various cultural background and with new ideas get involved. There is always a resistance from those who are unconfortable with change, and that is good. It's a self-preservation mechanism, and it ensures that change is slow and only very powerful ideas will have a lasting effect. Fast and easy change is not healthy, it can lead to a lot of dead-end streets and inbalance.
The fact that this website exists, is part of the proof that slow change does take place. 10 years ago discussions such as on this website could hardly be imagined.
BTW, thanks to Lisa for posting a link of Nick's gallery at the IBC website.
http://internetbonsaiclub.org/smf/Itemi ... c,16083.0/
Also, many thanks to Jim Lewis for reminding the IBC crowd that IBC is not the place to discuss art.
http://internetbonsaiclub.org/smf/Itemi ... ,15981.30/
He pointed the art-loving crowd to our website, the only website where the bonsai folks love to discuss art. Thanks again!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 12:06 pm 
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Just a quick thought. I don't think you will ever see any big changes in bonsai. It's taken it 4000 years to get this far. However, I don't believe that it has remained stagnant either. If it had been sitting still, then we wouldn't have the nick lenz gallery on this website.
I think that the art mimics the medium. In music it's possible to have a sudden change or evolution in the art as a whole because in the medium of music it's possible to shift violently or abruptly to a whole new mood.
In painting, it's possible to have a relatively immediate revolution because an artist can paint many new styles of paintings in a relatively short amount of time.
With bonsai, I think drastic change can only happen slowly, because the medium of bonsai is a very slow and subtle process. Masters like Walter and Nick are evidence that there is some change happening... It will take many years if not many lifetimes for other people to come along and copy them and then improve and let those "anomalies" evolve into another common facet of bonsai. And how much longer has it taken for those particular manifestations of the continuing change to appear on the surface?
True change only comes when one person or a small group of individuals is bold enough, naturally genius enough, or both to do something totally different in an art form that is just as good, if not wholly better than anything that has been done before. What cements that change is when a multitude of others come afterwards who either blatantly try to copy the the new style or are inspired to do something new that they never would have done before because of this new style.
In music we see evidence of this with the grunge explosion of the 90's. You had a small group of individuals, nirvana, pearl jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden that had an explosive new sound.. all the same, yet all distinctly different. It spawned a million rip offs, but also changed music forever because so many people realized that there was so much more you could do with music. You could trace it back even farther and realize that the grunge music was just a spawn of early punk.
The same thing happened (on a much larger scale) when the beatles appeared on the scene. There's hardly a song out on the radio now that doesn't sound like the beatles or inspired by the beatles.
So, to wrap up this 'quick' thought. I don't think you ever will see a change in bonsai. We are like the frog in the pot of water that is slowly being boiled. It happens so slow in this art, that we may never know it. But thankfully we do have guideposts and small reassurances that there is some forward progress of this art.
michael


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2005 4:28 pm 
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Here is a change that I can easily imagine happening.
Do to the internet and globalization, more and more people are touched by bonsai in various parts of the world. As a result, there will be an increasing number of people practicing it. This is not a spectacular process, but it has to happen, by the sheer availability of information available through the electronic media.
Traditional bonsai will shrink to a smaller and smaller percentage, compared to the total number of works available. When the practitioners of bonsai reach a critical mass, and non traditional bonsai becomes so prevalent that it is not a novelty anymore to anyone, there will be an explosion of new applications. Not unlike the asteroid responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs.
In essence, there will be two categories of bonsai: traditional bonsai and plant art. BTW, a contemporary, or naturalistic style will still belong to the traditional bonsai category, as opposed to creations like the larch in a ball, which is the plant art.
This new plant art will combine various artforms, such as plants and potery and painting, even music. Traditional bonsai will have its revivals, periodically, but basically will be only one of the many forms of expressions.
Also, by this time, due to plate tectonics, parts of California will separate from the rest of the continental United States, the Italian boot will disappear, and Africa will be separate from the Middle East.
These continental shifts will cause climatic changes as well, forcing the bonsai practitioners to adopt new species in their collections.
Someone should stop me, I think I am getting a little ahead of myself...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 5:10 am 
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Attila
Could it be that some day in the past a chinese saw what the japanese had made out of Penjing and then said about that, what you said?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 11:34 am 
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Quote:
Could it be that some day in the past a chinese saw what the Japanese had made out of Penjing and then said about that, what you said?

Here's an interesting thought.
They very well may have had similar ideas, whether or not they were discussed at is another subject. but just for discussion sake, let's say that someone did say the exact same thing about penjing. I suppose that your observation is that now we consider penjing a part of bonsai.
If at one time Penjing and Bonsai were so separate classification as Plant Art and Traditional Bonsai may be one day, I have an interesting hypothesis as to why they are no longer that way, and why Plant Art and Traditional Bonsai may stay separate.
Consider the fact that Bonsai and Penjing both stayed relatively unknown to anyone except for the eastern cultures for thousands of years. When they were finally discovered by western and other cultures we probably discovered them at the same time. If it wasn't' at the same time then the rate of speed that information traveled at that time made the discovery so subtle that it might as well have been the same time. So, the two naturally became part of the same art to us.
If it ever came to a point where Traditional Bonsai and Plant Art were seen as two completely different forms of expression then I think they would stay that way. Because there is not an entirely different culture left to discover them (aliens excluded). Information is shared so rapidly and so readily available now, that if two things are separate, then they may stay that way.
Of course on the other side of this coin is the idea that somehow in the course of a couple of thousand years the chinese and the Japanese started chilling out and accepted the other form as part of their own. I'm still pretty confident that they didn't really discuss the artfulness or category of their particular works. Probably because Bonsai, and Penjing weren't really classifications of art so much as they were just the names of what they were doing... Tree in a tray and Landscape in a tray. Those aren't exact translations, but you get my point right? In a way maybe it's like if aliens landed on earth and saw cats and dogs for the first time and decided that "Cat" was what we called all pets and that "Dog" was just a sub classification of a pet, when in all reality we aren't trying to label a dog or a cat, that's just what they are called.
michael


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 5:55 pm 
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Michael Thomas wrote:
Consider the fact that Bonsai and Penjing both stayed relatively unknown to anyone except for the eastern cultures for thousands of years. When they were finally discovered by western and other cultures we probably discovered them at the same time. If it wasn't' at the same time then the rate of speed that information traveled at that time made the discovery so subtle that it might as well have been the same time. So, the two naturally became part of the same art to us.
If it ever came to a point where Traditional Bonsai and Plant Art were seen as two completely different forms of expression then I think they would stay that way.

Interesting and logical perspective.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:49 am 
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Michael Thomas wrote:
Quote:
If it ever came to a point where Traditional Bonsai and Plant Art were seen as two completely different forms of expression then I think they would stay that way. Because there is not an entirely different culture left to discover them (aliens excluded). Information is shared so rapidly and so readily available now, that if two things are separate, then they may stay that way.

michael

You are probably right. However I see a real problem if this does indeed play out the way you have described it. As you say, we would have plant art and traditional bonsai. I think most of this on this forum understanding that we are talking about bonsai here and not topiary or some other imagined way of abusing our concept of nature. If this did happen would those of us who adhere to the plant art "school" have to by necessity have our own definitions and (God forbid) rules that define our plant art as different from traditional bonsai, penjin, topiary, container gardening or some as yet undeveloped idea that becomes vogue?
So if we take on the title of Plant Art how do we make the separation between what we believe to be Plant Art and what other people may consider plant art, which by definition could involve a very wide range of items from trees to African Violets? Here is where it gets sticky. When one understands the preceding assumption and you (in the generic sense) decide that a name, title or description of what we practice is necessary the term "Plant Art" should not be it. In doing so we would further cloud our concepts and ideas of what it is we are trying to accomplish within the definitions of bonsai.
As to inovations I tend to agree with Walter, there will always be those out there that will object to anything new either technical or artistic, and often violently.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 8:38 pm 
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I'd split the hair finer than that, Vance.
I find "Pop Bonsai" absolutely abhorrent. The term "Plant Art" would be far more appropriate, if only to ensure no-one makes the grievous error of thinking the nasty little things have anything to do with bonsai.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:10 pm 
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Hector Johnson wrote:
I'd split the hair finer than that, Vance.
I find "Pop Bonsai" absolutely abhorrent. The term "Plant Art" would be far more appropriate, if only to ensure no-one makes the grievous error of thinking the nasty little things have anything to do with bonsai.

Finally, something we disagree on even if marginally. Although we are indeed splitting hairs I would hate to see the evolution of bonsai put into the category of "Plant Art" for the very reason you think this would be the way to prevent it. Any time you put the term "Art" on anything you open the door for the very thing you define as Pop Bonsai. In the so called art community, as it is today, the definition is so broad that almost anything no matter how vile can be included in it.
I remind you of several years ago the incidents that took place in Ohio, I believe it was at the Cleveland Museum where a turd in a mason jar and a crucifix suspended in a bottle of urine were exhibited at the museum as art. Then of course there is performance art where the term art is the shelter for someone to stand on stage and smear chocolate all over their naked body, and for another individual to urinate on stage. Sadly if what it is we are doing or seeking to do does not have the word bonsai or something akin to it followed by art we are more likely to have Pop Bonsai than almost anything else.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 10:29 am 
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How interesting it is that Lisa Tajima's Popbonsai received an award at Gafu-ten.
You'd think those old fuddy-duddies would be even more disgusted at the break with tradition than us rock&roll westerners.
Be it pee-pee crucifix or Popbonsai, the stuff got you talking, didn't it? You are now participating in the act of art that the artist was creating, even in your rejection of it. Does it make you feel used?


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:47 am 
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Chris pootsie Conomy wrote:

She should be proud of the "Encouragement Award" she won at the Gafu-ten (Elegant Style Exhibit) for her display which consisted of a very traditional Literati on the right and three smaller "accents" in her unique footed pots on the left.
The display she was awarded for worked very well together however, claiming her popbonsai won the award alone would be like claiming that Mr. Urushibata won an award at Kokufu-ten because of the stand he used.
Now before someone gets the wrong impression, I applaud her efforts and respect that she is willing to break traditions, we need more like her in the world of bonsai. I congratulate her on her award and wish her the best in obtaining others.
I do not however personally care for her pots and let's be honest here, her pots are the only thing that are popbonsai, without them, there is not much different.

Will Heath


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:59 am 
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I am not opposed to innovation, and I have not seen the tree or pictures of the tree you have mentioned, I am opposed to trash being pawned off as art. I am opposed to ignorance being defended at the cost of intelligent experienced explanation.
At least here we can discuss this kind of thing without someone coming along and pulling the plug, or indulging in insults, innuendos, and taunts. When these individuals who are in a position where their authority should put them above this kind of thing, they, in the end, wind up being the worst of such practitioners. While claiming "Well aren't I entitled to an opinion?" the answer should be as a judge; NO. Especially when they don't get their way they shut down the debate. That is how you achieve the pinnacle of mediocrity.


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