Tuesday, August 29, 2006

An object with no name

On the first day of the seminar we met in a small room around a big conference table. There were about twelve of us in all. Leon introduced himself and the topic, and asked each of us to say what we expected. Now, the seminar title was rather general, even vague, so few people had any idea what to expect. Nevertheless we each came up with something, in my case what I hoped for. Leon then divided us into twos and threes and handed out some actual objects and images. Our group got the thing in the drawing. It consisted of pale green overlapping discs held together with red and gold threads, with a loop at one end and two long tassels at the other. We didn’t know what to make of it, except that it was oriental and maybe some sort of cheap ornament. I made a sketch/diagram of it as it lay on the table thinking that the scrutiny of drawing might turn up some fact we had missed (it didn't). Later on some of the members of the whole group recognized in it some sort of symbolic significance and suggested that the discs might be jade. Another group got a Japanese magazine which read from right to left and from “back to front” (as we would say). It showed how arbitrary our Western assumptions are, based on convention rather than on some deep law of nature. Some spirited discussion followed. The session ended with Leon allocating topics to be researched for the following week. Up to now I don’t know what the object is, its function or if it has a name.

No comments: