"... balance between the object's permanence and impermanence." (Photography ©Alistair Gentry)
“It does not have wabi, Paul said, nor could it ever. But- He touched the pin with his nail. Robert, this object has wu.
I believe you are right, Childan said, trying to recall what wu was; it was not a Japanese word- it was Chinese. Wisdom, he decided. Or comprehension. Anyhow, it was highly good
The hands of the artificer, Paul said, had wu, and allowed that wu to flow into this piece. Possibly he himself knows only that this piece satisfies. It is complete, Robert. By contemplating it, we gain more wu ourselves. We experience the tranquillity associated not with art but with holy things. I recall a shrine in Hiroshima wherein a shinbone of some medieval saint could be examined. However, this is an artefact and that was a relic. This is alive in the now, whereas that merely remained…“
“...to have no historicity, and also no artistic, aesthetic worth, and yet to partake of some ethereal value- that is a marvel…“
“…here, an artificer has put wu into the object, rather than merely witnessed the wu inherent in it... an entire new world is pointed to, by this.“
From ‘The Man in the High Castle‘ by Philip K. Dick, 1962.
I recently re-read this book, one of my favourites among PKD’s prodigious catalogue of intensely intelligent, thought provoking and, yes, readable works. A fine example of how a great book keeps on giving you more every time you return is the fact that I’d never before been struck by the philosophy of art expressed by the character quoted above. The novel takes place in the early Sixties in California, but after it’s been bombed and then occupied by the Japanese following an Axis triumph over the Allied powers during WWII. The Nazis occupy the Eastern seaboard of the country formerly known as the USA, and of course they have subjugated Russia and Western Europe, completing the Holocaust and moving on to repeat it in Africa. Robert Childan is a dealer in the authentic memorabilia associated with the now dead Western consumerist culture, which enjoys huge popularity with the Japanese conquerors who are now the cultural and political elite of Asia and the Pacific. Continue Reading