Leonard Koren

A Comparison With Modernism      [of the wabi-sabi aesthetic]


Modernism                                                             wabi-sabi

Primarily expressed in the public domain.          Primarily expressed in the private domain.

Implies a logical, rational worldview                    Implies an intuitive worldview

Absolute                                                                   Relative

Looks for universal, prototypical solutions          Looks for personal, idiosyncratic solutions

Mass-produced/modular                                        One-of-a-kind/variable

Expresses faith in progress                                   There is no progress

Future-oriented                                                        Present-oriented

Believes in the control of nature                            Believes in the fundamental unctrollability of nature

Romanticizes technology                                       Romanticizes nature

People adapting to machines                                People adapting to nature

Geometric organization of form                             Organic organization of form
(sharp, precise, definite shapes and edges)        (soft, vague shapes and edges)

The box as metaphor                                               The bowl as metaphor
(rectilinear, precise, contained)                              (free shape, open at the top)

Manmade materials                                                  Natural materials

Ostensibly slick                                                         Ostensibly crude

Needs to be well-maintained                                  Accommodates to degradation and attrition

Purity makes its expression richer                         Corrosion and contamination make its expression richer

Solicits the reduction of sensory information        Solicts the expansion of sensory information

Is intolerant of amibiguity and contradiction          Is comfortable with amibiguity and contradiction

Cool                                                                             Warm

Generally light and bright                                         Generally dark and dim

Function and utility are primary values                  Function and utility are not so important

Perfect materiality is an ideal                                  Perfect immateriality is an ideal

Everlasting                                                                 To every thing there is a season

Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren