stroking

+ smiling

Incapable of extracting ‘pleasure’ from ‘comfort’ she wrote in one of her letters: “As humans we all land on this planet burdened by the same void—the yearning to retreat to the mother’s womb— the ultimate chamber of softness.”

Tactilian by nature, her box-shaped home in Tokyo opened up into a longform almanac of carefully crafted soft memories. She often woke in the middle of the night just to pet them: a smooth cashmere stole she hand carried back from her time with herdsman in Mongolia’s green gold pastures. A fluffy wool boa made of fur delicately picked of tickled goats, who roll in laughter down a hill (tickling goats is an ancient tradition in Ladhak). The slinkiest silk made from a rare worm found deep in Nagaland (coveted by nearby tribes as a culinary delicacy) , so amorphous that pattern-makers around the world claimed it could only ever occupy shape in passing—it was too elusive to ever be colonized by form. She said every time her fingertips drifted across this fabric, it conjured in her tummy the feeling she felt while flying over the Blue Hole—a floppy lost shape—one of the few remaining palimpsests of the Ice Age—a midnight blue abyss, seemingly attached by invisible hooks to the melodic currents of the Carribean Sea.

She had a collection of brushes made from squirrel’s bushy tails. The kind they used in the 13th century abstract paintings by Tantrika tribes. She would tickle her lover’s back with them in the afternoons. She went to a tiny village in rural Rajasthan to obtain them; she wrote while she was there: “It felt like paddling within the depths of time. the vast dessert land here is spotted with stretches of dense poppy fields almost six feet tall. White poppy petals, blue peacocks, brightly embroidered day beds open to the sky, and the echo of the howling monkeys on the surrounding hills all fold together in a palpable scent. Dozens of red-eyed men roam around the village dirt roads in an opium daze.

By the way, did you know that over thousands of years, fuzzy sloths, found in the jungles of Panama amongst others, adopted slowness as a style of combat to protect themselves in the wild?”

coloring

+ dressing

Scientist Andrew Parker’s book, In The Blink of an Eye,  explains that around 540 million years ago all living creatures on earth were soft bodied (gooey like worms) and blind. Until the Cambrian period of evolution when the trilobite was born—a distant relative of both the spider and the shrimp—said to be the first animal to develop both eyes and hard-bodied swimming parts. Shortly after, in a blip, a phase just over just 5 million years (called the Cambrian Explosion) everything changed : an endless slew of brightly coloured, vision bearing, bone bearing, underwater beings animated the Earth’s oceans. Infinite new species were clad in bold colours with the intent to attract their potential mates or repel their potential predators.

Speaking of love and war; we learned from Kenya Hara’s book White, that the Japanese word for colour, iro, by happenstance also means ‘lover.’ In our own observation of Japan and India, we found two countries with opposing urban colourscapes (except for the school kids in drab uniforms and the crows in both cities). While the Japanese approach to colour is generally to use it sparingly and intentionally, the Indian approach is to use it liberally and emotively. Yet both arrive at these divergent positions form a long cultural history and understanding of colour as a powerful bearer of energy. In India, for the Hindu community for instance, the multiplicity of feminine divine power is celebrated in part by wearing a particular colour each day for nine auspicious days in the year, called Navratri (determined by the lunar calendar). During Navratri The city of Mumbai turns into an urban designer’s wet dream—with all the transportation routes mapped by hundreds of thousands of women wearing sarees in one color each day—for instance imagine being surrounded at the station on your way to work by hundreds, yes hundreds of women in variations of yellow. Each of the nine colours denote a different face and feminine power of the goddess Devi.

Few things are loaded with potentiality like colours are. For the Japanese, the strategic removal or chosen absence of colour often becomes more impactful than its actual use. We like to think of this like the lingering desire for someone you once loved but regret never to having explored when you had the chance; the planned use of negative space in a painting; the conception of a garment with missing seams; or the architect’s decision where not to build being more impactful than the actual construction. In his book, White, Kenya Hara speaks of the use of the colour white in relation to the concept of ‘emptiness’ in everyday life and things in Japan:

‘Emptiness as Limitless Potential

An empty space possesses a chance of becoming by virtue of its receptive nature. The mechanism of communication is activated when we look at an empty vessel, not as a negative state, but in terms of its capacity to be filled with something. The ancient Japanese religion of Shinto worships the “ eight million gods” within nature, but when we look at it from a different angle, we can understand it as a technique of communication, an imaginative power that invites wandering gods from everywhere. How then is empty space constructed in Shinto architecture?

A Shinto shrine, jinja, is a central space hosting people’s religious activities. It is also called shiro, or yashiro, and its basic principle is “to embrace emptiness.” In its original form, four pillars were raised on the ground and their tops tied with sacred ropes, leaving an “empty space” in the center. Precisely because this space is designed to be “empty,” there is always the possibility that something may enter it. This “may” is crucial too – it can be seen as the essence of Shinto, the thing that activates people’s minds and leads them to prayer.’
—Kenya Hara, White, Pages 038 – 039

Birds are attracted to brown twigs and green leaves, the popping colors of fruit, and love to live nestled in the trees (like some of us). As Tokyo is very built up and there are not many spots with a lot of trees to welcome birds.  Many birds seem to have left Tokyo’s grey-scape in search of nature’s hues. Yet the crows, otherwise known as the rats of the sky, stayed. Being a dense yet highly orderly city, the crows were not only lacking in trees but also in food found easily on the streets. They had to go study garbage in dumpsters very minutely— it’s a hard-knock-life for the Tokyo crow. On one of our first trips to Tokyo, we had the good fortune of witnessing a phenomenon of sorts—crows across Tokyo started selecting brightly coloured twiggy wire clothes across the city’s bins and started dressing up neighbourhoods with the most elaborate nest sculptures made of hangers; since they had no twigs.

The incidence of colour in the guise or disguise of a species has always been a clue for survival, a tool for attraction, nature’s way to feel and express the present tense and a strong marker of evolution.

stroking

+ smiling

Incapable of extracting ‘pleasure’ from ‘comfort’ she wrote in one of her letters: “As humans we all land on this planet burdened by the same void—the yearning to retreat to the mother’s womb— the ultimate chamber of softness.”

Tactilian by nature, her box-shaped home in Tokyo opened up into a longform almanac of carefully crafted soft memories. She often woke in the middle of the night just to pet them: a smooth cashmere stole she hand carried back from her time with herdsman in Mongolia’s green gold pastures. A fluffy wool boa made of fur delicately picked of tickled goats, who roll in laughter down a hill (tickling goats is an ancient tradition in Ladhak). The slinkiest silk made from a rare worm found deep in Nagaland (coveted by nearby tribes as a culinary delicacy) , so amorphous that pattern-makers around the world claimed it could only ever occupy shape in passing—it was too elusive to ever be colonized by form. She said every time her fingertips drifted across this fabric, it conjured in her tummy the feeling she felt while flying over the Blue Hole—a floppy lost shape—one of the few remaining palimpsests of the Ice Age—a midnight blue abyss, seemingly attached by invisible hooks to the melodic currents of the Carribean Sea.

She had a collection of brushes made from squirrel’s bushy tails. The kind they used in the 13th century abstract paintings by Tantrika tribes. She would tickle her lover’s back with them in the afternoons. She went to a tiny village in rural Rajasthan to obtain them; she wrote while she was there: “It felt like paddling within the depths of time. the vast dessert land here is spotted with stretches of dense poppy fields almost six feet tall. White poppy petals, blue peacocks, brightly embroidered day beds open to the sky, and the echo of the howling monkeys on the surrounding hills all fold together in a palpable scent. Dozens of red-eyed men roam around the village dirt roads in an opium daze.

By the way, did you know that over thousands of years, fuzzy sloths, found in the jungles of Panama amongst others, adopted slowness as a style of combat to protect themselves in the wild?”

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