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250 × 190 × 23 mm
256 pages
108 illustrations, 106 in colour
01 Sep 2013

Zen Landscapes Perspectives on Japanese Gardens and Ceramics Allen S. Weiss

The essential elements of the dry Japanese garden are few: rocks, gravel, moss. Simultaneously a sensual matrix, a symbolic form and a mythic domain, these gardens exhibit precise craftsmanship and exquisite miniaturization. However, their apparent minimalism belies a profound complexity, which must be approached according to the play of scale, surroundings and seasons, and especially in relation to the other arts, thus allowing us to experience them as living landscapes rather than as merely abstracted design.

These gardens partake of the Zen aesthetics of the tea ceremony, which also permeates Japanese poetry, painting, calligraphy, architecture, cuisine and ceramics, all of which entail different modes of representation. Japanese art favours suggestion and allusion, the indistinct over the literal: the moment when objects emerge or disappear, and the border between figuration and abstraction, are particularly valued. This is an art of the incipient and the potential, inspired by the intimation of continual transformation. This book shows how ceramics – seen as the very sublimation of the earth – plays a crucial role related at once to the site-specificity of gardens, to the ritualized codes of the tea ceremony and to the everyday gestures of the culinary table.

Zen Landscapes is the first in-depth study in the West to examine the correspondences between gardens and ceramics, suggesting new implications for theories of representation, arguing for the rightful place of ceramics among the fine arts and above all revealing original ways of seeing. This unique study will appeal to readers interested in landscape design, ceramic appreciation and the customs, craftsmanship and culture of Japan.

‘His text, illustrated with images so subtle you can scarcely tell if they are in colour or black and white, helps us move our understanding on a step. Rich in imagery and reference, it explores the interface between Japans gardens and the ceramics made both there and, in modern times, elsewhere . . . A book to read time and again.’ — Historic Gardens Review

‘the first in-depth Western study that looks at the relationship that exists between gardens and ceramics, suggesting new theories of representation and, above all, presenting ideas that may change the way we view such places . . . lush color photos’ — Japan Times

‘In this thoughtful work, Allen Weiss examines closely the relationship of elements found in a Japanese Zen garden . . . Weiss is particularly sensitive to the role of different objects and features, creating what he calls a Gesamtkunstwerk, a web of correspondences . . . Excellent photographs of various features of Zen gardens illustrate the pages.’ — Chicago Botanic Garden

‘one can learn a lot about Japanese art and culture from this well-illustrated, attractive book.’ — Garden Design Journal

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Allen S. Weiss teaches in the departments of Performance Studies and Cinema Studies at New York University. He is the author and editor of over forty books in the fields of performance theory, landscape architecture, gastonomy, sound art and experimental theatre. Mirrors of Infinity: The French Formal Garden and 17th-century Metaphysics (1995), Feast and Folly: Cuisine, Intoxication, and the Poetics of the Sublime (2002), Varieties of Audio Mimesis: Musical Evocations of Landscape (2008) and, most recently, Zen Landscapes (Reaktion Books, 2013)

 Introduction: Transformations of Vision
1  Transient Symbols
2  On the Circulation of Metaphor
3  Zen Mountains, Zen Water
4  Cracks
5  Pottery Landscapes
6  The Tea Bowl and the Toilet Bowl
7  Impossible Possibles
Postscript: A Leaf
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements