One is pulled towards the light, perhaps because brightness always seems to represent the “good,” or at least provide the illusion of relief in moments of fear or inner darkness. The intensity of light masks the senses and thoughts. It is drawn into the dark corners under the roof and even into the smallest room. But when I enter the immersive space of a Japanese garden in Kyoto, I discover a new construction of darkness. And under the stinging summer sun, this darkness becomes an unexpected friend, for the dim light creates a retreat where I can find a moment of contemplation. Here, in this place of reduced optical perception, my focus shifts towards other senses, which are becoming more acute.The singing birds and buzzing insects, the air touching my skin and the aroma of water, of wood or Tatami, become all the more present—these sensations form a gradient of impressions. From my position, taking shelter inside this black hole, I experience the outside world in a new way: my senses are sharpened and easily focused on subtle and minute events all around. And suddenly, very little effort is needed to highlight any kind of visual or sonic event. I notice the smallest piece of decoration glimmering golden in the darkest corner, the creaking of the wooden floorboards under the pressure of my foot, the grinding of a sliding shōji door, the soft summer breeze rushing in through the window, the framed view onto the kare-sansui (“Japanese rock garden”)—a landscape submerged in silencing fog and the humming of the city beyond.
Shisen-dō, June 2015
Text & Animation: Matthias Vollmer
Sound: Ludwig Berger