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July 31, 1970 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1970-07-31
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Page Eight

4

tHE MICHIGA I DAILY

+

Friday, my 31, 1970

Fri oy, July 31, 1ql0

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Air

1

For Direct Classified Ad Service, Phone 761
12 Noon Deaine Monday through Friday, 10:00 to 3:00

books booksb ooks

The past is what we are within it.'

Leo Bronstein, FIVE VARI-
ATIONS ON THE T H E M E
OF JAPANESE PAINTING,
Wheelwright, $7.50
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is
reprinted in slightly abridged form
fromIDr. Edward's Introduction to Leo
Bronstein's fascinating new book.)
By RICHARD EDWARDS
This is a difficult book. It is
original, immensely stimulating,
and in the last analysis, I think,
true. It is a book which in its
very insistence upon seeing the
world anew-perhaps not always
in a fashion acceptable to many
-may too readily be dismissed
as personal fantasy. The danger
is there.
On one level these variations
could be characterized as a book
of pensees. For - rather inde-
pendent of the specific analysis
of art - we may ponder such
brevities as:
The spiritual is what is
thought about the body.
The past is what we are
within it.
For more and more it seems
true that only the subtle, still
invisible, s e c r e t differences
are the real differences, the
efficient, working differences.
When we "remember" a sen-
sation we lose it as an actual-
ity in us.
... good and its self-rotting,
evil and its self-exhaustion.
But these thoughts do not
just flower on any tree. They
consciously grow from a mod-
ern man's understanding of
Japan's past.
Japan is the only culture
that never stopped believing
in ghosts.
Letters, or written charac-
ters, have had a most difficult
existence in Japan.
Shinto is not purity but pur-
ification
It is a book, too, that more
often than not contradicts ac-
cepted stereotypes. Buddhism is
characterized as "nothing less
mysterious." Zen is "easy,"
while Amidism is "difficult." In
a gadget for popular amusement
.there is "spirituality." The East's
line may be as convincingly
three-dimensional as the West's
more solid methods for creating
form in space. "China is Greece
. . . sub-historically." "Fujiwara
and Kamakura form one single
ever-maturing block-style of life
and art." ". . never did these
people think as we must about
their art."
It need hardly be said that
this is not traditional art his-
tory. Yet is it not to be wel-
comed? It is one of the unfor-
tunate dilemmas of the respect-
able academic world that as the
educational establishment grows,
perhaps more often than we
would like to admit, we seem
unable to afford that intellec-
tual necessity, the risk of origi-
nality of thought. Traditional
-art history has not been over-
revealing about the art of Japan.
We can learn a great deal-
indeed have much more to learn
-through the application of
accepted study of iconography
or style or perhaps the piecing
together of extant works by sin-
gle artists. But none of these
have revealed - may ever re-
veal-what seems to be uniue
about the art of 'Japan. Yet
t h a t uniqueness is universally
recognized. Close as it is to the
art of China, it is only at a few
isolated moments-moments of
closest influence - that there
need be any confusion. However,
we Hiave generally been forced
to '.'explain" Japan's artistic

greatness as an intense absorp-
tion in the technical aspects of
the craft, or as brilliant decora-
tion, or as narration, or as skill-
ed imitation, or as that of being
the last great repository - the
farthest East-of a noble tradi-
tion that owes its genesis, its
originality, and its basic im-
portance to India and to China,
Toward this Japan is at best a
precocious child.
These indeed all have their
truth. But somehow it is an in-
adequate truth. To praise the
work of the hands in an age of
automation s e e m s only nega-
tively important; to see art as a
pleasing combination of shapes
does not take us far beyond the
interior decorator; and some-
thing that is second or third-

judgment of the art of Japan.
For in recent years the "Japan
boom" has been too strong not
to indicate a significance great-
er than passing whim.
It is in this atmosphere that
Professor Bronstein's ideas are
brilliantly revealing. In a very
genuine attempt to take us be-
yond what has been done before,
he asks us to "leave with due
politeness the world of influ-
ences and reach the world of
attitudes, the what of the how
world . . ." At this level Japa-
nese art is seen under the guise
of "substitution." It is this new
and more complete notion that
embraces and makes meaningful
the partial truthds that we have
already known. We are forced
to accept the uniqueness of the

the utmost
importance."

. metaphysical

That which can be touched
cannot be doubted (which is the
story of religion, as Dr. Bron-
0--in affirms, is the greatness of
,hristianity). "The spiritual is
what is thought about the
body."
Nothing about that which is
of greatest human concern is
surer than art. This affirmation
stands in direct contradiction to
feelings about the visual arts in
popular circles and even con-
sidered opinion in scholarly ones
". . for his [the visual artist's]
art can ?only be an imprecise
definer of already vague con-
cepts . . ." But this latter view
surely stems from the deeply in-
grained notion that the definite

tainly this book is not without
its mystery, but unless he who
writes about the visual arts is
willing to accept mystery as
basic to their nature, he has
defeated himself before begin-
ning. Mystery, of course, is not
an equivalent for vagueness.
Finally, I think, it is impor-
tant to respect Professor Bron-
stein's notionof history, that is,
the importance of "sub-history."
The existence of similarities in
the arts of various parts of the
world, independent of the tang-
ible links of space and time,
may be fascinating as the exist-
ence of similarities f o u n d in
those which are linked by them.
And this is what makes it pos-
sible to consider the art of
Islam, or the art of America, or
the art of Greece or of medi-
eval France in a book on the art
of Japan. Indeed possibility may
very well be necessity; for
whether he wills it or not, con-
temporary man is not really free
to see any a r t i s t i c tradition
completely independent of the
judgments that o t h e r artistic
traditions may impose on it.
We travel far geographically
in this book, but also within
the realms of man. For here
inter alia we are involved with
philosophy, psychology, mathe-
matics, technology, drama, and
poetry. But there is no leaving
an essential unity of form, for
the form of the book is the
form of the body as defined by
its senses; and the senses are
consonant with the seasons, and
the seasons and the tangibility
of the body are here the art of
Japan. Japan never lent itself
to abstract thinking. No matter
how far we wander we always
come back, and the art of Japan
is there. But one can also say
that this is a book by a modern
man about the modern world
("The past is what we are with-
in it"), w h i c h Dr. Bronstein
sees as ready for a new myth:
"The total substitution of the
material witness of today's in-
nermost-man-and-his-body" for
the unseizable whole of this
cycle's happening. Its subject is
also ". . . not Japan and Japan's
art. But man's intellectual
love of God, amor intellectualis
Dei, the only profitless absolute
in the world or worlds."
As a work of art, such com-
plexities suggest that Variations
is most closely analogous to the
apparently uncontrolled control
of a richly varied abstract-ex-
pressionist canvas. M o s t of
what is here will not be grasped
-accepted or rejected-without
reflection. Understanding comes
through immersion in the "per-
son" of the book itself, and can-
not come merely through the
exercise of that "verbal" reason
which is here found wanting.
The form of the book is insepa-
rable from the message of the
book, and toward the end we
find the sum of our direction:
"'higher-level abstraction'
vision
sound
touch
taste
smell
'the silent objective empirical
world'
Drawn ever closer to the heart
of th e new m yth "Buddhist
psyche-ascent became . . . my
twentieth - century psyche - de-
scent . . where lowest and ele-
mental joins the highest deci-
sions of abstracting." And this
affirmation is universal because
it forces us to accept what we
are-which is our salvation ..
and was Japan's."

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apt. 533-1993. Avail. Aug. 24. 43057
ARB - 4 more (3 Bdrmn.) for house,
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tremendous closets
loads of parking
laundry facilities
1-864-3852
1-353-7389
Ctc
2 BDRM. FURN. units on campus.
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CHOICE APTS.
For Fall. 2, 3, and 4 man, close to
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Fall Occupancy
Furnished Apartments
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662-7787 335 E. Huron
47Ctc
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USED CARS
1964 SUNBEAN Alpine. very good con-
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'69 DELUXE CHEVELLE Malibu 350,
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after 5. 30N58
1965 MUSTANG, dark green. 6 cyl.,
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SAAB. 1967, 20,000 miles, mechanically
excellent, body needs work, $350. 764-
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1967 SAAB, white16,00) miles, must
sell, make an offer. 971-1890. 33N58
FOR SALE
FISHER 120-Stereo and F.M $230 or
best offer. Dust cover, $15 or best
offer. 761-1731 after 6. 5OB58
SILVERTONE tape recorder-Good con-
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LEAVING the country, must sell every-
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968 CHAMPION Mobile Home, 12 ft. x
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17 miles from AA. tray remain on
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ONE OF a kind .91 K. flawless diamond
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BIKES AND SCOOTERS
11948 INDIAN, 500cc, twin, rigid frame'
springer forks original Indian saddle
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MOTORCYCLE tune-up and service. By
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ROOMMATES WANTED t

LOST AND FOUND
FOUND-Orange and white male cat
with ring tail, near Union. 769-4275.
AD59
LOST-5 ma. old orange kitten, long
hair, white chin, near 5th and Mad-
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LOST-Evans red, white, and blue girl's
bike, good shape, reward. 665-7374,
call after 6 p.m. 33A57
FOUND-Little girl's dress, baby shoe,
grey sock, rubber teddy bear, man'sj
boot, bikini bottom, and dismembered
doll. Call Sebastian, 769-4549. AD57
HELP WANTED
NEEDED-Worker, 18-22, construction
and maintainence, $2.25/hr. 769-6637
constantly. 24H61
AMERICAN Academic Environments,
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Phone 761-7848 or 482-8867

36C71

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1700 Geddes
Beautifully decorated, large 2 bedroom.
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p.m. Sat. or phone 761-1717 or 665-
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2 BDRM. FURN. units, on campus,
avail. for fall. McKinley Assoc., 663-
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AUGUST OCCUPANCY
A delightfully spacious, quiet, clean 2
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ample closets. storage and parking.
Call on Resident Manager, Apart-
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APARTMENT LOCATOR-$12.50, 1, 2,
and 3 bdrm. fall apts. on and off
campus. 1217 S. Univ. 761-7764. 40Ctc

URGENT-Foster family needed for 15-
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Call 663-7860. Family in school con-
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UNDERGRAD to help prof (in wheel-
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board. 761-9034 after 5. 22H60
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Call 971-5748 before 4 p.m. l9Htc
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662-3172. 18H59
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4-Men Apt. $240
5-Men Apt. $280
Some 2-men apt. left also
Call 662-2952

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hand imitation is hardly to be
valued above the imitated.
This in part has led us to
prize the art of China at the
expense of the art of Japan.
And this value finds special
credence, I think, because the
art of China can be explained.
For in truth it is the art of
China that is "imitative," not
because it is essentially a copy
of other artistic traditions, but
because it is a re-creation of
what we have already known.
Space in Chinese art is again
the familiar space that we have
previously met in the "normal"
world. Its form is like the form
we know from physical experi-
ence, however beautifully in-
tensified in the direction of
what Professor Bronstein calls
"grace." It is because Chinese
art deals with what is familiar,
what is essentially given in the
natural world, that it is "easy"
to explain-and because under-
stood, the more highly prized.
The less intellectual contem-
porary West-the world of com-
merce, the craftsman, the deco-
rator, even the tourist-reveals
a more just, if still inarticulate,

work of art. And naturally the
technique, the very way in
which it reveals uniqueness, is
clearly of prime importance. So,
too, the idea of "decoration,"
for such readily observable mat-
ters as flatness or skilled surface
arrangement have much to do
with the artistic glory of a lac-
quer, a textile, a s u r f a c e of
paint. Even the matter of imi-
tation has its significance here,
for the excellence of the art of
a work of art does not rest in
its intellectual source.
But the theory of substitution
as a characterization of Japan-
nese art would hardly be enough
if it did not affirm as well the
ability of that art to speak in
and of itself of that which is of
deepest human concern. It is
because of its physical presence
that it is valid. It is because it
can be touched, and infinity (of
which all undefinable aspects of
existence partake) c a n n o t be
touched, that art has meaning.
For Japan's greatest art there
can be no more talk of "mere"
decoration. Ano ". . .- that is
why in Japan the costume is of

and the precise is that which is
verbally definite, verbally pre-
cise. That words, as the tools of
reason, can with confidence be
relied upon to define what is
real, while arrangements of
forms in space cannot.
This brings us to the "style"
of Dr. Bronstein's book, which
at least may appear to have its
aspects of imprecision. Its diffi-
culties are in part the result of
wide learning, which often con-
denses meaning - perhaps too
abruptly - to essential state-
ments (the pensee). But more
than that is the inescapable fact
that words are poorly fashioned
instruments for defining the
much more precise concrete and
tangible reality of Japanese art
itself. If we ask why we cannot
have a straightforward expected
explanation of Japanese art,
why we must have a "Myster-
ious C o m p a n i o n," a ghost,
"mud," a grey little mouse, or a.
Noh play, the answer can only
be that, at-le-a at so- far,- all
straightforward expected. ex-
planations of Japanese art have
left us far short of a satisfac-
tory notion of what it is. Cer-

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