|Date:||Monday, March 7th, 2022 - Friday, 11th, 2022|
Due to the global pandemic, the symposium will be carried out online. We will be using both Zoom for live interactions.
|Sponsored by:||Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS)|
|Language:||English and Japanese with simultaneous translation|
|Program：||Please check our special webpage|
|Registration：||This symposium has been concluded.|
|Contact:||International Affairs Subsection, Administrative Office,
Research Institute for Humanity and Nature
Twenty years ago, the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature was established as one of the sole scientific institutes in the world taking a cultural approach to the study of nature, environment, and environmental problems. Based in Kyoto, Japan, the institute was established on the basis of East Asian philosophies and ways of life in which culture is a constitutive element of the surrounding world, whose intrinsic nature nonetheless remains fundamentally out of reach, unpossessable, an infinite source of mystery and inspiration.
Twenty years on, humankind is now widely seen to be everywhere within nature, especially as illustrated by idea of the Anthropocene and the dangers of global climate crisis. Redefined in our human image, nature is transformed into a super-complex techno-institutional problematic. In the Anthropocene, it is often said that humankind must finally properly ‘manage the biosphere’.
Instead, as RIHN enters its third decade, increasingly alarmed by human incursion into vast nature and its consequences for human communities, we return to the arts as the fundamental creative fields of life. RIHN’s 2021/2022 international symposium, The Arts of Living with Nature, addresses the arts of life as they are instantiated in things, places, and social forms, which in turn express humankind’s experience of living in continuity with the earthly forces that are ever at work.
This 2021/2022 symposium builds on two previous RIHN collaborations with scholars at Kyoto University and EHESS of France (“Dialogue: Japanese Views of Nature” at Kyoto University in 2018, and “Does Nature Think?”, held at UNESCO Headquarters and the House of Culture of Japan in Paris, 2019). Those events joined Japanese and French scholars in exploration of different philosophical standpoints and field studies challenging the dualistic modern Nature/Culture paradigm. These past inquiries must also be extended to dismantle the dualisms clinging to key concepts of our present symposium, such as art/technology, art/craft, aesthetic/utility.
The garden provides a key point of entry. Gardens are sites of both labor and repose, idealized representations of nature that are nourishing to body and mind. In microcosm, gardens can express human understandings of the principles of life, even as their plants, trees, animals, insects, and soils remain as silent ambassadors of other kinds of time and patterns of interaction. In human history, gardening is also a close cousin of gathering, and in this view, the techniques of the garden also extend to other much more dispersed activities and territories, informing different ways of life in particular places.
In the Arts of Living, we continue to explore Eastern and Western conceptions of natural intelligence, for such ideas of unpossessable alterity affirms a creative role for humankind. We explore these root sources of human creativity in the material world, as they extend across the formal plastic arts, craft, and fields such as dance, music, and performance, all of which can be seen to speak to the human hope for life within a nature that remains a vast source of the unknown.
An online symposium
Due to the global pandemic, the symposium will be carried out online using a number of platforms. We anticipate the bulk of the interaction will take place via video chat software, such as Zoom and Youtube Live, but we also plan on using online messaging software, such as Slack, to extend the discussion beyond live interactions.
The program follows a traditional Japanese narrative structure, progressing through four phases: Opening, Reception, Transformation, and Conclusion. We have adapted this structure, adding a Prelude that helps us to set the stage, and shifted the orientation of our last phase from Conclusion to Renewal.
Each of the dates, except Day 1, is organized into two sessions: Academic Session and Public Session. On Day 1, only the Public Session will be held.
This Prelude takes the form of a dialogue between YAMAGIWA Juichi, RIHN’s Director-General, a primatologist by training and most recently the President of Kyoto University, and Oussouby SACKO, President of Kyoto Seika University, and a landscape architect by training. Taking the climate crisis as a point of departure, this conversation begins with the idea of a “Garden Earth”, and what this concept can mean today as humankind is faced with the need to move beyond anthropocentric and Western ideas of nature.
We are increasingly aware of the action of the non-human world. Humankind is surrounded by complex forms of consciousness and cognition, whose creativity can be both intellectually challenging and psychologically reassuring. This session engages non-human sensory experience of the Earth in its own right, for the challenge it poses to our human habits of thought, and for its potential to expand our perception of the creative Earth.
Gardens are laboratories for interpreting and experimenting with the agencies of nature. As they evolve, they express understandings of sets of ideas about the natural world. In receiving the ideas of earthly intelligence described in Day 2, we are able to see that this intelligence is not random, but intentional, in the sense that it reflects sets of practices, suites of activities, much in the same way as do human technologies. Here we open to the infinite and interlocking techniques of life through which humans have experienced the Earth.
“We inhabit pre-existing forms, and in inhabiting them we change them, and are changed.”
The idea of ars is always lurks within the arts. The Latin roots of this term refers to ‘skilled labor’. Ars emphasizes the role of humankind in transforming the materials of the Earth—and in so doing, transforming the human mind and body as well. This process proceeds firstly through the bodily senses. This session speaks to this sensuous and aesthetic experience as a fundamental mode of human exploration and learning, a field of experience from which we learn as much about ourselves as we do of the Earth.
Humans may dream today of detaching themselves from the Earth, but this vision of humanity finally abandoned to itself seems a greater tragedy than triumph. Turning away from the creative intelligence of the planet would only leave humankind lonely and impoverished, bereft of companion creatures, alienated from the great creative potential of the Earth. Yet we must look deeply, both within and without, for the return passage, and seek to understand the living intelligence of the planet as the ultimate source material of human perception and dialogue with the infinite mystery of the world.