I received an email from a follower who requested the meaning / definition of the phrase civilized ku....
....Approximately 15 years ago, I began using the naming conventions of ku and civilized ku to differentiate between my "pure" natural world pictures and those which include evidence of humankind. However, in both labels, the operative word is "ku".
As I understand it, the Japanese (I lived in Japan for 2 years) word "ku" has several dependent-upon-use meanings, such as - sky, empty, space. I appropriated the word for use in my picture naming convention for several reasons:
1. "EMPTY". When I make pictures I do so with an "empty" mind. That is, I rarely seek out something to picture. Rather, in most picture making cases, a referent pricks my eye and sensibilities-in a sense, a referent has found me. It feels rather like a referent is seeking me and I am able to see/hear it because no other thoughts get in the way.
In addition, when a referent pricks my eye and sensibilities, my mind is always empty of technical / technique picture making thoughts - it's a simple act of; see the referent, camera (95% of the time, same camera, same lens) to eye, frame the referent (guided by what feels "right") and make the picture.
FYI, I view pictures, mine and those made by others, with an equally empty mind.
2. Long after adopting my ku naming convention, I came across an excerpt from an academic paper, Engaging with Ku˜: from abstraction to meaning through the practice of noticing, by Yoko Akama which stated:
This paper presents a design project that explored the practice of “noticing”. Noticing is a way in and through which we are able to understand and create our relationship to space and place. The practice of noticing can facilitate awareness, reflection, learning and transformation. Noticing is a practice that enables us to engage with the concept of Ku˜, meaning “space”, in Japanese. In this project context, Ku˜ is interpreted as a space of potentiality rather than emptiness or nothingness. Engaging with Ku˜ through the practice of noticing can enable a transition from abstraction to meaning. Ku˜ can also be an expression of the ambiguous potential of design investigations (ed: I will substitute "picturing making" for "design" throughout the rest of this excerpt) : including knowing and the unknown, the limitations and the challenges. To practice picture making in this way is to step outside of the confines of certainty and embark on an exploratory path of discovery. Just as picture making is a way of engaging with space – to enunciate the unknown, to create meaning from the abstract – so too is noticing as a temporal practice of discovery and place making. Through the act of noticing the ambiguous openness of space is transformed into the connectedness of place.
If I had encountered Yoko Akama's excerpt prior to adopting ku as my naming convention, I might have adopted the word noticing in its place inasmuch as, re: reason #1 above, my empty mind-"to step outside of the confines of certainty (ed: picture making wise) and embark on an exploratory path of discovery-allows me to "notice" things which incite me to make pictures. That is, things (aka: referents) I might not have noticed if my picture making mind was focused (pun?) on other things.
All of that written, an artist-statement-like explanation regarding my picture making intentions might simply read as:
With an empty state of mind, ku, I am able to experience the act of noticing the ambiguous openness of space and transforming it into a connectedness of place.