a leaf lies on the surface of waters lapping on stone.
*Figural/mimetic: recognition and
reference (found object).
uncertain, reference blurred (found object).
*Abstract/minimalist: all reference stops
with itself, living texture (found object).
*Carved: functional/decorative: support
for structures, ideograms or patterns.
*Constitutive: the making of stone
landscapes (mimetic, meiotic, ideal, sublime).
(the modalities on reference):
Figural-mimetic; stones found to be like …something (if made like… something, they would be
statues, yet there are no statues in Chinese Gardens… or very, very few; their
role, commemorative not decorative). Stones so obviously like… something;
something we might recognise, put a name to, a face to…. The face in the stone
which no one has put there…
face in the stone is a face without responsibility…).
Suggestive-ambiguous. From resemblance, (strong in
suggestion, relatively weak in ambiguity) as being like… something
(scandalously, accidentally, like a stone caricature of... something) like a
tortoise or lion, or the head or face of… something more or less determinate.
To a disturbing borderline recognition, where we recognise but do not any
longer know what it is that we recognise (the strongly ambiguous; something
simply suggestive with no clear direction, weak in reference).
presence of rock as such, the matter of rocks as such (stone as such). To stone
itself as the source of a strong attraction. This total lack of mimetic
referential force is the source of an uncanny sensation, a sense of the uncanny
inherent in stone, it should resemble… something we know, but it doesn’t, yet
something is there; the face of the faceless. A sublime relation. Abstract in
classification, yet as itself (as matter) apparently offering a symbolic force
beyond itself (beyond matter). It is as if its very reference to itself as pure
matter has created a reference to a point beyond itself. (Or there is something
about this point of reference that we can not accept). A case of deixis deflected elsewhere. An index of the limits of indexicality itself, revealing to us, reminding us, of
something in ourselves in our relation to stone. A materiality beyond materiality. Stone.
A procreation of stone. Stone procreation. Repetition applied. Rock
procreation. From stone mountains to mountains of stone. A creation of stone. A
stone creation. Tamed and applied. The Rockery. This is the basic unit (above
the rock itself, sentence to its word) out of which are constructed, inferred,
inscribed, the little mountains and ravines, the pools and winding streams that
make up the landscapes of the garden and the park. Shrunken landscapes shaped
from stone. A meiotic mockery of its original, but one nevertheless which
transforms them, refining, distilling the best… Collecting together the great
moments of the wilderness, the experiences of Nature’s space, of Nature’s
special places, the sense of genius loci
…the better to relocate it within easy reach, a short walk, a step away. The
sublime ‘spirit of the place’ as a collectors item, at once a playground, a
game in search of an audience, and an art work in which we participate, a poem
(Figural/mimetic; recognition with
nomination). Huge tortoises haul themselves out of the ground. Lions are seen
crouching in the bushes. Here, the head of a fish, the head of a dragon. There
a demon stands by, witness to the petrifaction of a mountain spirit, its own
imminent materialisation. This is the moment of prosopopoeia,
of transformation, of becoming similar. Or is it that something is becoming
mimetic? (As in becoming visible to us as its possibility…). The possibility of
seeing an impossibility, as the absent and inanimate is given a face.
mimesis: the heavens reborn in stone.
without nomination)… “No… but something.”
Stone. Stairs and balustrades decorated with tortoises, clouds and dragons, the
presence of stone tables and chairs (stools). Strange intermediary between
Nature and Culture. Texture (again) apparent; kept maintained, no sacrificial
illusionism required, rather it is the degree of illusionism itself that must
be sacrificed, as in all the Chinese arts, to higher factors, to
spiritual-expressive factors; as to lower ones (or by means of lower ones) the
texture of stone. Nature in matter; culture in form. Thereafter nature is
required, but suggestive… a symbolic Nature, with a second meaning of beyond
Nature (from supra-Nature to supra-Culture, their reunion in the sublime and
a-temporal, rhetoric of eternity). A Nature turned to function, and to symbol
in/as decoration…(culture). Or chosen for its symbolic value (its symbolic
function). Decoration is also a form of repetition in miniature. Or (as in the
Rockery) Nature as Replication (and repetition, of form as of the units,
through the units that make up this form). As in a Meiosis of Nature.
up of rocks into gorges, or used as décor on hills. Piled up, formed into the
banks of rivers and lakes, or as décor, as islands, used in the formation of
paths, stone paths, or their lining, their misshapen guardians, those found in
gardens parks and those meandering across hills and sacred mountains. Or just
in the wild. In the latter case (national parks and the ‘wilds’) stone is taken
from local environment only to become a part of a local feature (see the
photographs of paths). The path (the way in Nature, reconstructed from Nature’s
Rockery. Citiation (resiting,
reciting) of valleys and gorges, of ravines and mountains, to the garden, to
the park (even if present minimally in the ‘Southern’, or ‘Scholar’ type
garden, or even in a single pot). Or a garden in a park, in the corner of a
park, around the temple or behind the dwelling in a palace. In a garden (in a
park) or if in a park, perhaps not quite so minimal (so constrained, refined,
so intense) as in a garden. Therefore possible on a ‘bigger’ scale than in the
minimal Southern style or ideal garden, but still smaller than its (supposed)
point of reference in reality. Still, in this difference of scale (or quantity)
a difference redolent of the ideal (of a suggested quality) we are offered a
cultural tour de force, repeating
Nature by means of Culture, suggesting supra-Nature and supra-Culture, both;
both of these impossible deixes connoting the
presence of eternity…
Time. The place of eternity.
place of the Sublime.
A stairway to heaven (eye-raising and the
following of paths up mountains).
its kind, or suggested… Or if including a path, one which may lead to an ideal
place (as above).
repetition or mimesis of heaven; unseen yet recreated.
in reality is dangerous and threatening. Nowhere more so than with mountains
and rivers. Whence a source of the sublime; but with beauty and threat combined
(instead of their opposition in Burke, Kant, Schlegel, Hegel and company). Like
the Romantic tiger (Blake). Sublimity in this
threatening form is never in sole opposition to beauty but rather combines with
it. Beauty with a threat (real or imaginary, or symbolic, indeed,
simultaneously beautiful, sublime, and symbolic, the very impossibility of the
sublime deixis as accreting symbolic value…). Meiosis
accentuates this combination, even purifies it; as the beauty is refined and
the threat transformed into the sublime of the limits of mortals and mortality.
The limits and boundaries of human knowledge may be the sites and portals of
beauty. Their portality being their safely made passage
into the sublime. Now cleansed of danger.
passage, however, is one into a land as yet unclearly defined, or one defined
solely by belief. As such the limits of human knowledge continue to play a role
in the visions that the Garden presents, not least in its claim to the
portrayal of the ideal, or otherworldly. A trace of the sublime also remains in
the threat of divine Law, of the life choices that will determine the
modalities of the after-life, such conscience-stirring normativity
is the traditional function of (the rhetoric of) the immortal realm. The role
of religion and its incarnation in the social rhythms of ritual.
of the hard edge of the sublime in its threatening incarnation, the Garden
presents a form (recognisable only with difficulty by Western aesthetic
theory?) which reconfigures sublimity as otherworldly
-whence ‘sublime’- but not (as in the Western model) as size or limit as
danger. Indeed the element of size is quite literally removed, and the sense of
a limit is then transformed from a problem for human knowledge into an aid for
self-knowledge. From the accumulation of quantitative information and its
limits we are transported to a qualitative experience which brings focus to
bear on value, not least in the role it plays in our experience of ourselves,
and others, of our identity, our relation to first and last things (however
sense of the ‘Other’ referent(s) a product of the technologies of the
production of such experiences, may offer beauty as uncanny as sublime, where
the sublime is not the result of a threat (inimical Nature), but persists in
the sense of an otherworldly beauty. This ‘something’ from beyond the limits of
knowledge must therefore not come from a culture but from a
super(natural)-culture (simultaneously above both Nature and Culture). One
which we however posit ourselves (a product of ‘our’ culture). This process of
a worldly production of the otherworldly offers a sense that is both different
from and complementary to the Western sense and notion(s) of the Sublime.
Symbolic. Force of the earth. Face of the earth. Gift of the ground used to ground the ungroundable. Stone, succour of beliefs; beliefs existing
this side of the rhetoric of eternity (of this earth and its distillation, stone).
Solid, elemental… found alongside water… containing it, conducting it,
ornamenting its still surface and offering itself as reflection… ground
ungrounded, shivered apart in a silver shoal of ripples… Also to be combined
with sky and trees, framers of the sky, (reframed themselves in the waters
below, they in turn reframing the sky, the floating sky, below). Green and blue. Blue water framed by stone.
Blue skies framed by a wall of green… Blue light. Green shadows.
conduit of identity (which would be like stone) maker of images, site of
reflections. Like ourselves, the reflection of which, impossible, surmised, a
self-reflection impossible, surmised… The place of art (word, sound, image,
matter) in and for its builders and users. Site of identity. Its vision the foundation of (a) community.
The civilised within the walls of civilisation. The civil within the civilised.
Site of urbanity in the Urban. Chinese gardens and their reflection in the
waters of their pools and ponds. Contained and channelled by the citation marks
2005 Peter Nesteruk