Thursday, May 07, 2009

Karasawa Hitoshi / The Homunculus at the Heart of Thought

I've always been fascinated by objects in the shape of other objects, particularly objects shaped like parts of the body -- faces, feet, eyes, etc. I've a pencil sharpener that is shaped like a nose (you put your pencil up one nostril to sharpen it.) I think it says something about our relationship with the world, with matter in general. It says something about how we see, how we conceptualize our world. Perhaps there is genetic programming that sees matter as alive, as animate, as animal. We can see in other ways, perhaps but there is part of our brain that tends towards this paradigm. We have a sensory homunculus, but also a perceptual one.

The above picture is a snap of a garbage pail in one of my parents' bathrooms. I've always had a shine for the implicit metaphor of this heart-shaped garbage pail, filled with garbage and, frankly, enjoy throwing junk into it.

The image of the man's face is from a poster advertising a retrospective exhibition of the great Japanese printmaker Karasawa Hitoshi, something I picked up when I was in Japan a few years ago. I love the birds that are wisps of hair, the surf that is face. (You might have to click on it to enlarge it to see these beautiful, intricate details.)The natural world maps onto the perceptual homunculus.


J. Mae said...

Beautiful post. The Hitoshi reminds me of the photographs Ozawa took of airports, walled cities and grand shrines. Old photos I saw in Japan...

gary barwin said...

Thanks. I'll have to check out the Ozawa photos. I was only in Japan (Tokyo) for a couple of days, but it was amazing. Of course, I was looking through some kind of weird Basho / Haruki Murakami / Zen / alt culture / koto shakuhachi / avant garde music filter. The concatenation of Japans that a Western writer/composer might accumulate.