Industrial Series – Monono Aware

Originally, Japan had a tradition of finding beauty in transience as seen in 'mono no aware もののあはれ (the sadness or pathos of things)' affected by Mujokan無常観 (Buddhist concept of the impermanence of worldly things) in Buddhism.

I never thought of myself as a Buddhist though many everyday customs, attitudes and behaviours of people,are influenced by Buddhism, Confucianism and Shinto in Japan. I am not the exception.

Industrial vases are made from the chimneys of nuclear power station.

It was one winter day I was looking out the window on the train. I saw those chimneys. The scenery somehow reminded me of Chinese poet Du Fu’s (712-770) work.

Empire broken mountain river remain.

State ruined mountains-rivers survive.

Nation broken mountain river exist.

Country damaged mountains rivers here.

The state is destroyed; hills, rivers, remain.

Nation fallen, yet nature's alive.

I have read this not from the original but in the chapter ‘Hiraizumi’in ‘The narrow passage to the deep north[1]’ by Matsuo Basho (166-1694). Similar expression can be seen in the opening of ‘Hojo-ki’ by Kamono Chomei(1155-1216). Architecture of late 60s, 70s and 80s also reminded me of these phrase. They are in a way quite ugly, yet, give me a strange fondness as they are so ‘Monono aware.’

This is not very relevant, but in some way, may help non-Buddhists understand this concept of ‘Monono aware’. Let's say Richard Wentworth’s works are very ‘Monono-aware’, in a modern way. This British artist is not a Buddhist, obviously, but pathos of the things, mismatch and adaptation of old and new, strangely gives me the impression of beauty of the impermanence of worldly things.



[1]Oku no Hosomichi (奥の細道?, originally おくのほそ道, meaning "Narrow road to/of the interior"), translated alternately as The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Narrow Road to the Interior, is a major work of haibun by the Japanese poetMatsuo Bashō, considered "one of the major texts of classical Japanese literature."The narrow passage to deep north(奥の細道)