On the art of building a teahouse
19. October 2017
Excursions into Japanese aesthetics
In Fall 2017, Neues Museum Nürnberg will host a major exhibition on Japan. Focussing on the art of building a teahouse, it invites viewers to explore the world of Japanese aesthetics.
The point of departure for this voyage is the traditional Japanese teahouse, a place of spiritual experience. The founder of this practice was the famous tea master Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591) who understood the tea ceremony as a synesthetic event. Rikyū recommended that teahouses should be markedly simple and made by the use of materials that are vulnerable both to wear and wheathering. Japan's tea culture and its links to Zen Buddhism have brought forth an aesthetic of lightness, fragility and the ephemeral to which we owe objects of overwhelming beauty.
The exhibition offers new approaches to the quintessentially Japanese notion of an aesthetic practice of transformation. In this practice, simply drinking tea becomes a ceremonial act. Everyday tasks and objects become occasions for meditation on matter and time. The teahouse created for this purpose plays host to a concentration of space and time. In this setting, the profane becomes meaningful and everyday simplicity acquires an aura of specialness. The tea ceremony suspends the flow of time, celebrating the pure, unrepeatable moment. But it can only take place if the participants themselves are prepared to undergo a self-transformation – only when their own perceptions are altered does the "way of tea" become an aesthetic practice in which the strict separation of art and life is overcome.
The show explores the basic notions of the Japanese tea aesthetic and allows them to be experienced in seven themed sections. The featured works of art, architecture, design and photography are part of an art-historical continuum. The creators of the works on show perform skilled translations: in dialogue with craft and design traditions, they update the central motifs and themes of tea culture using modern materials and innovative forms.