Thursday, July 07, 2011
Sur-naturalism, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Sur-naturalism is the Japanese tendency to attempt to make nature even more natural than nature itself. Here the branches of trees in our garden have been pruned in such a way as to make them more wiggly, by cutting off the main branch and allowing the branch to continue to grow along alternating sub-branches.
The same tendency to reduce the "human" "geometrical" and increase the persceived, natural majesty of plants may be present in the art of Bonsai and the way that garden conifers are cut into bobbly pagodas. In each case a smaller plant is made to emulate a larger one. Garden layouts also deliberate eschew lines and pursue "sur-random" pairings of plants and rocks.
Ruth Benedict pointed out this tendency to attempt to arrange nature to conform with human notions of what nature should be. Quoting from a "A Duahgter of the Samurai" Benedict writes, “every morning Jiya wiped off the stepping stones, and after sweeping beneath the pine trees, carefully scattered fresh pine needles gathered from the forest." (Benedict, 1946) Lummis (2007) points out that it was sur-naturalism that Benedict assumed the Japanese would be glad to be free of. Benedict could not have known how beautiful the Japanese thought it.
Labels: nature, nihobunka, nihonbunka, 日本文化, 自然
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.