Postcard #009
Do-nothing Design — A Protest?




Psychedelic Soup!


Was the answer to a question a student and I arrived at; following a profound experience beyond the five senses taught in schools. A month living on a remote inland island can have that effect on habitual city dwellers.

“Let’s say there are such things as gods… then how would she perceive me?” — ”If we presume that she was able to perceive all living organisms… what would that look like?”


Psychedelic soup?


A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Four Fifths a Grizzly: A New Perspective on Nature That Just Might Save Us All, by author Douglas H. Chadwick — hence the psychedelic soup conversation. This and several other books combined (over years) have brought together a growing number of discombobulated thoughts around the subject of teaching art & design (living, working & being) from a perspective of regeneration or more precisely: less degeneration.

Do-nothing Design or a Do-nothing Creative Philosophy, a Protest?

Tentatively written, as I have little idea how to actually do this, so I’m setting myself a few rules to force the function of thinking by writing a postcard every day for the next 9 days — each postcard: one photograph & approximately 100-200 words (roughly the amount you can write on the back of a physical postcard… if you write small... and squeeze it in).

I will archive them here starting tomorrow, Sept 22nd: P009

SO… welcome along, this is my ARUKARI Postcard - Autumnal Equinox series. Sit back, relax, nap, lay-flat, bed-in, start a revolution and do-nothing. I’m James Gibson doing little more than watching farmers harvesting rice.





01
Everything.

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E V E R Y T H I N G ?

Yes, everything is interaction and reciprocal. Back to basics — look to spirituality and call it Karma, or to the sciences “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction”. There is no getting past the fact that everything we do, has a reciprocal do. Even breathing. Be careful with the doing of the things you want to do. Start with breathing and slowly, carefully consider more interactions, noting the inter-reactions in your mind. Sooner or later feeling the fatigue you may feel the need for a coffee. Oh, the choices involved in the simple act of pouring hot water over ground beans: Where did the beans come from, how were they grown, who picked, packed and transported them? How do you heat the water to be poured over and into what vessel made of what? After the coffee has been enjoyed and before you return refreshed to sitting, breathing & thoughts of doing, how is that handy vessel washed, or dare I say cast-aside?

Before you design or make anything sit & breath and contemplate everything… is interaction and reciprocal.





02
Something.

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Am I doing something wrong?

Yes, “If you're not enjoying what you are doing, then you are quite likely doing something wrong”. For the act of doing alone —the joy of creativity— should be reward enough. In the pursuit of external rewards —whatever they might be— we push ourselves into all manner of doing somethings. This will likely end in dissatisfaction. As without joy, there is little possibility of achieving your best, most creative and satisfying work (self).


He who binds to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise.

– William Blake


Now, I’m not saying that joyful work should perpetually be without strain or discomfort, for there will always be times of both. Yet, within the underlying purpose for the effort is where meaningful enjoyment resides.

Before you volunteer or sell your time to do or make something, sit & breathe and contemplate the true reasons behind your desire & eagerness to do so.





03
Nothing.

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I like the sound of doing nothing!

Yes, as do I, but that was not quite the intention I had in mind. To do nothing is to work harder still; as achieving nothing is ever elusive —ever more so. To think clearly in order to achieve the utmost inner creative potential is synonymous to focused time free from distraction. Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities. The sparkling allure of convenience dazzles us with time-saving, material-saving, copy-pasted options, at what loss? For how better to spend one’s time, than to occupy oneself in the unique labour of creativity? Making proregenerative choices of consumption and creative production will likely take more time, effort, restraint, awareness, discussion and often capital. Yet the long-term net gain is evident and often priceless —whose shade you know you may never sit in.

Before rushing into the consumption and production of anything, sit & breathe and contemplate the long-term implications of your actions and choices.






04
晴耕雨読

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☀️ 👩‍🌾 🌧 📖

Let My People Go Surfing.

🧘‍♀️ 😮‍💨 🤔 how you might break convention, making your own rules and using your time in a natural way.






05
90%

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Sunday morning and like most mornings during this glorious time of year, I wake to the melody of insects and frogs outside the window… and my furry friend who is biting my arm. Not too hard, just hard enough as to rouse me from slumber.

“I’m hungry, wake up — feed me” is his not so subtle message. As he busies himself in the act of filling his cavernous belly, I have just enough time to fill the kettle and grind coffee beans, before I get the call to go explore the neighbourhood together. He likes to patrol the village, culminating in a running race along the road next to the rice fields —now empty. Then back inside for a seconded breakfast, before insisting that I sit as it is now time for him to settle on my lap and lick every crevice. Unwanted hairs float through the air landing on my own breakfast, which I struggle to prepare. Sipping my now cold coffee, the question of “who has who trained?” comes to mind. But it really doesn’t matter as I enjoy his company just as much as he does mine. With our 90% shared DNA, we’re more alike than different. Evident as we equally enjoy the comical-thrilling game of chase around the house, accumulating in a friendly mock fight —he most always wins. It’s mind boggling to think that us vertebrates (including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) only add up to roughly .005 of 1 percent of the total number of species existing on Earth today. Most of which we can’t see with our own eyes, let alone comprehend. Yet all are integral in the running of our shared ecosystem.

What a fool I must seem, bumbling my way through life under the impression that I was the center of the universe. Everything wasn’t created for the sole purpose of my self-indulgent pleasure and expression?

When it comes time to create & express yourself, sit & breathe and contemplate our shared DNA and symbiotic ecosystem.






06
Anything.

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Are you saying that I don’t have to do anything?

Indeed I am, but is it possible for an Artist or Designer to do nothing? Do we not see the world through the lens of endless creative possibilities? Is it not true that we make sense of everything —our existence— through acts of creativity, for why else would I be writing this? Should I not be out there riding my bike, as the air is cool and the sky is blue? Yes of course — but then again, no I shouldn’t.

As I sit on the floor of the engawa, using a stool as a makeshift desk. I ask the question: Have I trapped myself into writing these emails for nine days? Perhaps, yet is it not also freeing? Giving myself space to process the ideas crowding my brain. Did I not say to force the function of thinking & doing — to un-discombobulate my mind. Indeed I did… so I write these words that fill the page and empty my mind —and tomorrow I shall do the same.

Beware of empty calendars imploring to be filled. Before you fill them with anything, sit & breathe and contemplate they are already full with nothingness.






07
Pass or Fail. (pt 1)

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If I were to study doing-nothing, then how would I know if I passed or failed?

Good question. I could say there is no doing of passing or failing, only the doing of learning. Over the years of teaching Art & Design, the query of grading has entered the mind on more than one occasion. Apart of the idiotic system of time = credit handed down from some industrial age, there is the matter of a final evaluation. At the university where I work, the weight of this lies in the accumulation of production, culminating in a final flourish of creative output (followed by a performative thesis in the penultimate month). If by forcing a focus on the external output, am I not condoning production for production's sake, therefore potentially going against the idea of regenerative design or art? (Shouldn’t the education system and institutions our taxes pay for be regenerative too?)

Perhaps I need to reconsider on what grounds and whose authority do I evaluate? For all I have are my own experiences. Yet, my understanding, thinking and abilities are flawed at best, for my subjective views and opinions are just that; my ever-changing personal-emotional lens on the world… TBC.






08
Pass or Fail. (pt 2)

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I was saying…

My understanding, thinking and abilities are flawed at best, for my subjective views and opinions are just that, my ever-changing personal-emotional lens on the world. In my opinion this can only be used as a guide and not a rule to which I should judge others.

The Sceptics - Those who investigate or enquire as opposed to those who assert and think that they have found.

I recently signed up for an introductory class on ancient philosophy and the short, yet informative section on the Sceptics stuck with me. To have one foot in the known and the other in the unknown over the circumference of one’s ever expanding circle of knowledge & experience. Therefore as you grow, so does what you don’t know… ever exponentially increasing. What is there to be gained from constraining, even shrinking another's mind into the circle of what I understand? Our thoughts and ideas should be symbiotically shared, accumulating into the expanding void of creative possibilities.

If a teacher & student —any— relationship is able to reach this level of appreciation, then have we not already passed beyond the pointlessness of accumulating grades.





09
Peacefulness & Nothingness.

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That’s it…

Cat on knee, new book in hand and a coffee by my side. It’s early-ish morning, the neighbours cuckoo-clock is cuckooing 8am a good 15 minutes early! We’ve been sitting here a while now, lost in thoughts of riding bikes carrying everything needed with us. I read on, waiting for the warmth of the sun.

I’m reading ‘Slow is Fast’ by Dan Malloy —slowly because the type is too small… hmm?— remembering my original plan for this series of email postcards; To cycle my way to Hokkaido writing along the way. You see, I’m researching a piece about Isamu Noguchi and realised that I’ve never been to Moerenuma Koen. Me being me, I cleared my schedule for the entire month to wind my human-powered way to Sapporo.

Lock-downed, prefecture-bound, making the most of physically going nowhere.

So here I am… the 9th day in this series. I finished this one early, now 4pm later the same day, the air is still and my beer is fizzing with cold bubbles.

Final words? The universe is full of moments of extreme chaos & busyness, and equally full of peacefulness & nothingness. Remember this and have the self-awareness to act accordingly.







Catch Salt — Make Fish.



I started this series recounting a conversation with a student. Now weeks later, picking up where we left off…

Sharing our stories of befriended fishermen on a small inland island and of salt-makers on a remote coastline corner of Japan. Finding similarities in their differences. Describing their way of living as being simplistic would be too simple, more a conscious life-process informing a life-style: Catch fish, sell fish — make salt, sell salt — make a little money, just enough to catch fish & make salt. We agreed that we —as Artists— would do well to remember this. Make art, sell art — make a little money, just enough to make art.

I secretly named the salt-maker ‘Sparkle Princess’ due to her glittery outfit. She must’ve been in her 70’s and when I asked her if they made salt everyday? She replied “If the sun is shining. then we make salt.”

Hah!

The rice fields are empty and your inbox is full, this concludes my ARUKARI Postcard series for 2021. Thanks for reading along, see you again next spring, when we will plant more seeds together.

Wish you were here.
James










Nutrition Movement Community Purpose


Photographs series:
Oku-Noto Triennale, Suzu, Ishikawa.
Japan 2021



This is an Arukari Postcard emailed out every new moon.
Following the links on each Postcard will reveal more.