zaterdag 9 november 2013

Zen as a design style?

Fragmenten uit een e-mail uitwisseling, oktober 2013

Met zijn ‘zen als leefwijze’ nodigde Maarten Houtman ons uit in ons volle, gehaaste leven ruimte te maken voor het ‘overal aanwezige’...
Is zo’n leefwijze van invloed op de kwaliteit van je leven, op wat je maakt?
Bevan D. Suits, designer en publicist uit Atlanta, Georgia, (USA), stelde ons via de vraag, hoe Tao-zen zich verhoudt tot de Nederlandse design cultuur.
Grafisch ontwerper Peter van Balgooi, ontwerper van het drukwerk van stichting ‘Zen als Leefwijze’, en Hein Zeillemaker, maker van de website, gingen met hem in gesprek en wisselden de volgende berichten uit.

Bevan Suits wrote:
Thank you for a unique and valuable website, quite lacking in ‘extras’. An authentic and home-grown practice and method you are presenting. One question: How does the Tao-zen approach fit with Dutch culture of design, such as the work of Gerrit Rietveld.

Hein Zeillemaker wrote:
Dear sir,

Thank you for visiting our website, and for your kind opinion about it's style.
You are quite right, the Tao-zen website is just a home-grown product, a result of many years of rebuilding and restyling. A great help for me were the instructions in lay-out I received from our Tao-zen teacher Maarten Houtman, who himself was a graphic designer and teacher.
What you say about the lack of extras in the website appeals to me.
 I recently edited one of Maarten Houtman’s speeches (from April, 1992). Speaking about the intensity necessary for meditation – and as a way of life - he said the following:
“That intensity is located in the plain, in the simplicity, in the parsimony, in the undecorated.”
As Maarten Houtman was a person who fully embraced life, this should not be misunderstood as Calvinist austerity. He was always emphasizing that you can meet the Oneness within your daily life – not in the so-called ‘great things’, ‘important things’, ‘exalted things’, but just in the simple things of life.
Thank you for making me happy in recognizing some of this in the design of the Tao-zen website.

Bevan Suits wrote:
Greetings Hein,
Rietveld is a big influence on me as a designer, and millions of other designers. We studied De Stijl extensively in my first year of design school. 25 years later I am still learning!
 He helped create modern design by getting rid of extra ornamentation and seeing the world, perhaps, as an interconnected grid.
The Calvinist view to deny the world’s pleasures is only half right, as you know. Maybe the Zen approach would say: “Enjoy them in the moment, but don’t hold on.” Then we can appreciate a single flower.

Peter van Balgooi wrote:
When I was a student at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam we learned about De Stijl and the people in that group. Rietveld was one of them. As you know the group wanted to get back to form and function only. No ornamentation at all. Though Rietveld used the horizontal and vertical in his chairs for example, he made concessions. The diagonal was introduced. He also painted his chairs in the primary colors. That too is basic. But when he painted the Red-Blue chair he painted the ends of the layers and standing parts yellow! These yellow squares can be seen as decoration or ornamentation!!!
 So Rietveld was not completely in ‘Stijl’? For me he was a designer who allowed a bit of humanism into his form. In this I see a connection to Tao-zen.
Maarten Houtman has told so many stories that have given me a new way of looking at life. But at the end of every weekend gathering he would always conclude his teaching by saying: “These are only my words. Do not listen to me, do as you like and feel free to make it your own story.”
I translated these words as: Let all ornamentation go ... look at what is left then ... what is important to you and to you only ... use that to go on!
As I walked around in the Rietveld-Schreuder house the guide showed me the rooms, and the solutions applied by Rietveld. The corner window that opens to two sides with no pole in the corner. Beautiful! But she also pointed out a door turned into a shelf, and Rietveld had removed part of the shelf for the door to open. Solutions that were simple and almost funny.
For me Tao-zen meditation is very basic in ‘style’. Sit on the pillow and listen to your breathing. Let your thoughts go by ... and do not connect to them.
 But if you discover that you are making a shopping list, laugh about it and know that yes and no are both okay!

Bevan Suits wrote:
Thank you for sharing an interesting perspective on our western tradition of design and the eastern roots of Tao-zen.
If Rietveld had not added the diagonal, it would have been too perfect, perhaps? The whole includes the flaws.
For me and many designers, a good solution includes the right amount of wit or humor or spice. Otherwise too rigid. When you see it, it’s wonderful.
 Even more so when you can create it. And get paid for it. Once or twice in a career maybe it all comes together.

I know exactly what you are saying about the yellow squares because my first assignment in design school was to design and build a De Stijl jacket out of cardboard. For me it was one of my first successful design projects ... because the visual language is not so hard to understand if you get the spirit of it.

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