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Video Shitakusa, Part II

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Video Shitakusa, Part II Empty Video Shitakusa, Part II

Post  Robert J. Baran Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:22 am

Due to the length of this report, I am putting the final paragraph here so that more of you might read it:

The unpredicted end result of these two experimental class sessions was an exploration of a new kind of display of bonsai, beyond the vague initial concept labeled “video accent plants.” Not all the attempts by these non-enthusiasts showcased the bonsai, but enough did so to demonstrate that further playful interpretation is warranted. These could be uniquely creative and infrequent additions to our usual types of formal or informal display.

Please see for background.

On Wed. Feb. 3, I gave a slightly more than one hour talk as part of another three-hour class on video shitakusa or accent plants at Colorado College. Five bonsai belonging to Pikes Peak Bonsai Society member Bill Fox were set up around the room for the thirteen students to view. Unlike the first session, here most of the students worked in teams.

We then brought the trees back on Tues Feb. 8 for a second three-hour class in which the final videos were presented. With 3” of snow on the ground this morning, there was some snow on the top of the pots' soil. Most of the videos, many shot over the weekend in and around campus and town, were projected on the wall either behind or to the appropriate side of the table-top display bonsai. The table tops are each about 6' x 2' rectangles, pale in color. Four -- all yamadori -- of the five trees we offered had been incorporated into the various presentations. After each presentation, usually watching the video loop a few times, there was discussion by the class and comments by the presenters. Due to the fact that some of the students' works included copyrighted material from a number of sources I cannot show them here. However, please take a look at these textual summaries I've put together. (I've taken the liberty here of editing what was seen to focus on the accent portion.)

Using a medium-sized L-shaped raft-style Engelman spruce (the righthand trunks are jin/shari), a video was projected behind and slightly above to the right. It was made up of two side-by-side videos of students from the presenting student's acting class. Video speed was manipulated to match the somber audio. The movements of the students was vaguely windswept/in the same direction as the tree branches and their heads turning was somewhat also mirroring the tree's lines of movement.

A short reverse-S-shaped Ponderosa pine had the video loop shown to its right. A mountain-shaped low cutout was positioned slightly in front of the rear wall and acted in place of a suiseki. The shadow from this provided a bit of an outline. Various winter scenes were shown, sometimes with a split image specifically shaped to the mountain cutout. Snow falling across a closeup of rough-barked tree, waterfalls, snowy mountains, a freight train in winter, white water rapids, ducks on a frozen pond, snow-covered boulders, a cross-country skier and deer.

A medium-sized 3-trunk Ponderosa pine sitting towards the right side of its pot had the video shown to the left and slightly above. A 6” glass globe was suspended by fishing lines from the ceiling to the left of the tree. The video was of a bright light with red overtones in an otherwise dark room; the projected light circled the glass globe clockwise, sun-like. The shadow of the globe happened to be shaped like a squat Chinese lantern. The light from the globe occasionally added a flare effect. The passing of time with a steadfast evergreen?
The L-shaped spruce had the next video to the right and behind. Clouds were shown moving against a light blue sky from upper right to lower left. A blurred bright image was in the lower right and center. After a while the sky darkens and the image on the right is shown to be a close-up of a vaguely cloud-shaped thumb on top of an inexpensive cigarette lighter. The flint is lit and there comes up at center screen in slow motion with the flame, bright and in focus like the sun. The flame goes out as the clouds fade out.

A flattened 7-shaped spruce 3' wide and 18” tall in a deep oval pot, now has the video above it. Mostly double-exposures of dry reeds, a rough woven basket (sea fan-like), snow-covered dried seed head, rose bush in winter, overlaid with images of half-frozen surface of a pond, snow banks, a frozen fountain's weird ice formations.

The L-shaped spruce with this video to the right and behind. A somber simple piano audio. Multiple layers shot with a hand-held (sometimes shaky) camera of trees and forests in winter, using various filters or polarized, a small yellow origami attached as if it was the last leaf still hanging on a branch, pond reflections, looking down at the photographer's boots walking in the snow, close-ups of tree bark textures, sheer multi-patterned drapes in front of a window looking out at trees, snow-covered weeds. The bonsai appears to be viewing the outside trees in winter and is somewhat personalized by that.

The squat 7-shaped spruce with a definite shadow is in the lower left corner of the large projected video. A dark purple background with large blurred pinholes becoming visible one or two at a time. About 60 lights finally are seen in circular patterns roughly duplicating the lines of the tree. Chimes and other non-specific techno sounds as the audio. The lights then blank out one or two at a time. The tree represents earth, its shadow is man, the video images heaven.

The L-shaped spruce is in front of the left half of the video. Usually an out-of-focus colored image is shown over the tree, while the right half has one or two b&w or polarized images horizontal or vertical of snow scenes. A noticeable background is looking through plate glass splattered with water droplets and the objects beyond blurred. The bonsai was definitely part of the whole presentation. Quiet audio with vocals and a definite beat – the video edited to that rhythm – provides energy to the presentation.

** The reverse-S pine is in the center of the projected video which rises up only to the top of the tree. A strong shadow is behind the tree. A projected reversed-sunset glow rises up from the bottom over the pot and the bright light of sunrise shows at the top edge of the pot. The image fades to a blue and white scene of a forest with heavy snowfall from upper right to lower left. Some of the larger flakes are visible across the bonsai trunk and pot. Fade back to the sun still rising up in the foliage. Drops on white glass now are seen across the bottom of the image at the height of the bonsai's drum nail-decorated round pot. At some point the sun is slowly setting vertically back through the tree. Fade to a final image of multiple time-lapse star trails moving from lower left to upper right against a dark blue sky. We are going to be using this one as a video loop with the tree during our annual show. If there was anything like a “traditional bonsai display video,” this would be one.

The squat 7-shaped spruce has the video to the right and behind the tree's right edge. A white circular outline perhaps a foot in diameter – reminiscent of a full moon – is projected with images inside. Vertical strips of fabric with a fringed lower hem blowing in the breeze from left to right are seen, first red and white cloth, then changing to blue and then pale green and back to red. The audio is a soft meditative instrumental with some notes of dripping water.

A large Ponderosa pine is a reversed 7-shape in a wide and deep pot which extends to the left of the tree because the plant's root is opposite the branches. Four MP3 video players are arranged on the table-top to the sides and front of the pot. Each player's video represents a different element: earth, air, fire, and water as a postage stamp-sized image. Audio is a varied instrumental piece, Wagnerian at times, coming from two small desk speakers behind the pot – as if the sound emanates from the pot and tree itself. The images necessarily draw the viewer into the bonsai's “personal” space. The four videos are not synchronized and thus each viewer will see a unique composition. (It was also suggested to have a scroll painting kakemono of a famous alchemist hanging on the wall to the upper left of the tree...)

The 18”tall S-shaped tree is on the right side of the table and a conical pile of sand/grit (slightly higher than the top of the soil in the pot) is on the left side of the table. A several inch wide trail of the sand connects the pile and the pot. The video is projected close to the right side of the pile. A perhaps 9” tall image of a Chinese woman in traditional garments and a coolie hat is shown as if she were raking the sand trail in broad motions. She turns to the viewer and with finger to lips makes a “shush” sound – the only audio – and then she slowly walks exaggeratedly towards the tree. She salutes the tree in a fashion and bows down low towards it. The image of falling sand over her replaces her, and the video loop starts again. She is the guardian/keeper of the bonsai.

The squat 7-shaped spruce with a strong shadow has a video of the image of the same tree projected on the wall behind it. Also in the video is then an artist sketching first the tree onto the wall, then its pot, the table-top, and to the right a small bowl with a thin tall ikebana. The artist is shown in fast-motion, a bespeckled female in red blouse and short black skirt, at times turning towards the cameraman and talking. (In a space above the ikebana was to be a down-loaded b&w animated video of a seed growing and sprouting hair-like out of the ground along with a whole forest of others, but the presenting student experienced technical difficulties.)

Later, for two hours early that evening, five of the video compositions were voluntarily presented for visitors to see in the classroom.

Any comments?

Robert J. Baran
Bonsai Researcher and Historian
Robert J. Baran
Robert J. Baran

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