A talk on collecting and cataloguing ceramics in a leading pottery gallery, complemented by shakuhachi and saké – WiK’s winter event was an early solstice celebration and the perfect launch into the festive season. It highlighted three members of Writers in Kyoto, each an accomplished author and each a master of their chosen field.
A packed house at Robert Yellin’s Yakimono Gallery listened carefully as noted aesthete and art academic, Allen Weiss (of New York University) spoke of the joys and quandaries of collections. How far do they reveal the autobiography of the collector, and how exactly does one go about cataloguing a collection that may have been assembled in an entirely unsystematic manner? As he ranged over the permutations, it raised thoughts about the sometimes inappropriate categories we impose on objects. Juxtapositions can prove particularly fruitful in suggesting associations, giving rise to listings based on colour, shape, texture, material, date – or a whole range of other groupings as mentioned in an imaginative Chinese catalogue that Allen cited. Those who attended Allen’s talk two years ago will be aware of his stunning book on Zen Landscapes, and the reading he gave last night was based on a forthcoming book on collecting which should be no less compelling. (For his amazon author page, click here.)
Afterwards saké was served in precious guinomi cups, while shakuhachi master Preston Houser played some haunting tunes, two of which were improvised. One was allegedly by famed Zen eccentric, Ikkyu Sojun, though Preston assured us it was a later composition written to honour him. (For a youtube video of Preston’s shakuhachi, please click here or here. For his Kyoto Meditations, click here.)