Physicality: A Dialog Between Two Monks

For a few years now I’ve been studying spatiality and urban space. This year I’ve been particularly interested in embodied knowledges, mobility and access to space. Because of travel restrictions and constrained mobility on a global scale, one of the main strategies of this project evaporated. Therefore I’ve been thinking about physicality even harder – what it means to us and why it is so important. Especially now, during a lot of virtual communication, social distancing and streaming. Interestingly, I found a conversation between two Japanese monks talking about physicality in the context of the covid-19 pandemic, contributing with scale and perspective.

Here are two quotes that really resonate with me:

Zenbo Hidaka

“Yes, we are born in a time when cars and airplanes are available, but the people before the modern times probably could not move around this much. 

During the Edo period (1600-1868), roads across the nation were much improved and the customs such as Ise-mairi (Pilgrimage to Ise Shrine) marked the dawn of tourism, but even that was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Tourism was yet to become a frequent leisure for everyone, so physical transfer must have been very limited in the society. 

In our contemporary life, we have many sorts of media but it does not simply mean that we are blessed with richer imaginations and expressions. What I imagine is that, because people back in the days had more limitations both on movements and physicality, their imaginations ran more freely. 

So what I envision is to take the physicality under the COVID-19 circumstance and its inconvenience not just through the scope of a few decades but of much longer timespan, as the holistic physicality that we all deal with.”

Tenshing Kazama

“What I particularly feel as I produce stuff is that humans are constantly experiencing their own physical scale (e.g. on average around 160cm~170cm for the Japanese people).  But what is constantly ongoing is hard to notice without being told– breathing, for example. 

So when a massive entity, something incomparable in size to you, emotions like awe and respect are spawned. Your own “physicality” takes an important role in such times as its precondition.”

Source: Co•Iki – an Artist in Residence program located in Tokyo, Japan. Here is the link to the transcript of the conversation:

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