J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Japanese Dconstruction

Japanese Dconstruction by timtak
Japanese Dconstruction, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Derrida shows how Western philosophers present us with sullied signs such as foot prints (Husserl), speech acts (Austin), and writing (Plato), and then once making it clear how these 'pharmacon' are signs sullied with the image, the Western philosophers then claim that there are pure signs: those of the inner voice of the soul, unsullied by the visual world, which are present to the ideas that they represent. Derrida argues that we do this to preserve our sense of self as signed by our 'self-narration,' which to Derrida is really a sort of 'auto-affection:' "listening to ourselves speak".

The same deconstruction may perhaps be applied to Western feelings towards dolphins and whales. Their "song" is another imperfect language, a pharmacon, that serves to purify our own. Perhaps Hitler is used in a similar way. Hitler is human. But Hitler was evil. Therefore there are good humans. But these real world examples are just an aside. Is there a Japanese cultural equivalent of deconstruction?

It seems to me that the Japanese, like their super heroes, want go in the opposite direction. Performing a Nacalian inversion of Derridean deconstruction, I propose that Japanese artists present to the viewer images that are sullied with signs, that is to say images that invite, come complete with, misinterpretation. Japanese artists show us gravel gardens that look like inland seas. Or drawings of rocks that turn out to be mountains. Or ink drawings that are so sparse that though we provided the interpretation ("that is a branch") we are brought back to the reality of the ink and paper. They show us room interiors that again, play with our sense of scale. And finally Haiku poetry never tires of presenting an image (such as an old lake) with a interpretation (that a frog has jumped in) that turns out to be no more than interpretation - whammy - all there was was the sound of the water. There are no end of haiku that show us images tainted with (mis)interpretations: snowflakes that turn out to be cherry blossom, or cherry blossoms that turns out to be snowflakes. Even Ezra Pound seemed to be aware of the trick, when in "In a Station of the Metro," he confounds petals with his apparition of faces. To achieve the Japanese image-purifying affect however, he need to title his haiku "A walk in the woods." In all cases the Japanese artists shows us tainted, sullied, images, in order to purify the image or place which, according to Nishida, is both self and world. This is Japan Dconstructed.

Western philosophers present their readers with signs sullied with the image, to purify the sacred sign: the holy living logos. Japanese artists, who are also philosophers, present their viewers with images sullied by signs, to purify the sacred image, its space or place: the mirror in their minds.

Image bottom left: Japanese house traditional style interior design / 和室(わしつ)の内装(ないそう) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋

Labels: , , , , ,

This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.