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Zen Playground: Inspiration, Analysis, and Interpretation

It is as difficult to understand Zen Gardens as it is to understand one’s own self. (Parkes, p.10)

Zen Playground” was a performance I created in December and various different inspirations were synthesized to create my final project. Artists discussed in classes, concepts discovered in other lectures, and previous aspirations from my own life came together to create this performance piece. The performance revolves around three key ideas: physicality, inspiration from children, and appropriating Zen imagery for a western audience. The original concept came to me many years ago when I discovered this small play area that evoked the image of a Zen garden to me.  The work had been bubbling away in my mind since I had first found the playground back in high school. The play park had a series of small rocks alongside various play apparatuses in an somewhat circular space. I immediately was struck with the idea of recreating a Zen-like garden in the playground. Since this initial inspiration I have learned more about Zen and have created a clearer vision for my appropriation of the Zen garden concept.

Several artists from the Gutai movement sparked my interest from Ming Tiampo’s article Gutai: Decentering Originality, because they drew their inspiration from youth. Murukami Saburo’s “At One Moment Opening Six Holes” from 1955 was originally inspired by his son throwing a tantrum and ripping through the paper screen in their home. This work is extremely provocative because of the amount of physical involvement the artist had on its creation. Watching the artist struggle his way through a series of screens is almost painful to watch. At the end of his performance he is panting and sweating in front of his audience. The Gutai movement is deeply entwined with two of the main principles for my own performance- physicality and children. “Early Gutai sought originality by investigating the nature of creativity. One place they looked to as a model was c