Imperial Villa Katsura

Qu’est-ce que tu penses?
Je pense pas, je regarde.
Bethan Huws

Ching-Yu Chang comments on the Japanese spatial concepts:

‘ “Theory of Greek philosophy was very precisely and deeply affiliated with Greek art and poetry; it consisted not only of the rational thought […] but also vision, which encapsulates everything as a whole”
The contrast is obvious. The Greeks pursue to render everything as a whole using visual experience, whereas the Japanese are gradually and persistently heading from a particle to the whole.[..] It is mostly impossible to point out the beginning and the end, and so impossible to grasp the wholeness, similarly to the Buddhist cosmos, which has no beginning and no end.’

Katsura’s architecture holds universal values. Modern architects – Bruno Taut and Walter Gropius found in this historic Japanese building fulfillment of their very own innovative programs in the West. Many years later (1983) Izosaki Arata points out their understanding of Katsura was not very correct, for there is more to Katsura than a simple ‘repertoire of forms’. Arata notices the importance of ambiguity being the essence of the complex. But it is neither the modernists nor Arata who are right or wrong. They all found in Katsura what was essentially part of their own time.

In the later writings of Arata we read: “Finally Katsura had the potency to integrate these several model changes into its own body. The clear and transparent composition praised by the modernists and the contradictory and heterogeneous bricolage now in attention – together they keep a miraculous equilibrium, even establishing a mutually comfortable relationship, which induces a gorgeous pleasure in the space. The pleasure goes beyond or perhaps swallows all kinds of discourses. The secret of Katsura’s myth-provoking function exists there. Katsura is a classic”

Christian Kerez claims that perhaps a reduction of elements is the key to understanding architecture. In the context of my series of photographs one might mention a reduction; however, I would like to refer to wabi, which does not signify reducing an object to the detail, but rather concentrating on the detail.

The spirit of wabi values what is small and unimportant. It contemplates the universe in a leaf, a stone because all is one (Lao Tsu).

Here the concentration on the small, the framing, becomes universal. It doesn’t refer to Katsura, but the spirit of Japan, it conveys the whole universe as a whole as much as a leaf and stone on the ground are.

Taut writes about Katsura: ”Beauty, which is completely non-decorative but functional in the spiritual sense. This beauty makes the eye a sort of transformer of a thought. The eye thinks…in that it sees”. I shall add, simultaneously: the eye sees, in that it thinks.

fragment of an essay:
Martychowiec M. (2012) Qu’est-ce que tu penses? Je pense pas, je regarde. In: Index Newspaper, Issue 3, Porto, pp.36-39


archival pigment prints, dimensions variable