Media Art League/Japan Authentic Heritage Initiative published its first photo art book edition in early 2023: Signs of the Intangible collects a series of photographs by photo-artist Miro Ito—presenting a visual history of Japan’s 1400-year mind-and-body-unity culture from a unique perspective.
The 106 photographs include new and unpublished works together with newly-written art essays by the author herself: it also serves as the catalogue for the eponymous international ex
The uniqueness of this presentation accentuates this unprecedented perspective on how these outstanding tangible or intangible arts and traditions interact: 8th century sculptures influenced by Hellenistic culture such as Gigaku and Bugaku masks that came to Japan in the 6th-7th centuries via the ancient Silk Roads, Noh performance and Kobudo martial arts with their 600 year tradition as well as contemporary dance performances like Butoh.
Nurtured in a nature-worshipping environment (Shintōism) where everything is seen as a manifestation of kami, and influenced by Buddhism, the key element here is the continuity of the dedicatory tradition distinctly evident within the uniquely Japanese form of Shintō-Buddhist syncretism existing since the 7th century.
Seeking a path to enlightenment
From the 12th century, Zen Buddhist influences advanced an ideal of mind-body unity (shinjin ichinyo) that was cultivated, for example, by Dōgen Zenji as the path to enlightenment—not only in religious contexts but also—in performing arts like Noh and in martial arts such as Kobudo under the patronage of the samurai clans that dominated the shōgunate.
As another Zen Buddhist teacher, Hakuin put it “our soul has a physical dimension and our body has a spiritual dimension”, so the body is the ba (topos or place) for such transformation toward its ultimate goal of gedatsu (liberation: vimokṣa in Sanskrit) intrinsic to Oriental ascetic tradition and meditation.
It is our hope that the Signs of the Intangible may provide glimpses of evidence for East-West exchange—going back centuries—and the long history of Japanese performing arts while pursuing a road to enlightenment embedded in the deep layers of Japanese culture.
Perhaps this work will give an impetus to the reader to direct their gaze to the horizon of unknown possibilities that the body opens up.
Inspirations that the body can unlock
This book presents mind-and- body-scapes woven by “distant yet close body expression”(1), for which 1400 years of Japanese performing arts serve as an example—ranging from Gigaku/Bugaku to Nogaku, to Butoh, to modern dance, and even to mixed media performing arts.
Could it not then be, then, that by dedicating oneself via the corporeal body to the truly great and sacred, one could become one with the universe?
In the end, as a common aspiration of all humankind—regardless of religion or ethnicity—may a true awareness that we all are one spread and take root in the hearts of everyone so that it may be shared throughout this world of seemingly never-ending strife.
Miro Ito & Media Art League
(*1—quote from Ko Murobushi)
Proceeds from the sales of photo books help fund public relations activities for Japanese culture and the creation of supporting media such as books and films, to promote awareness for Japanese culture around the world. These will also be available for collaborations with museums and educational/research institutions worldwide.
See more in details and how to order books on our Website and Flyer: Japan Authentic Heritage Initiative
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