Tuesday, September 30, 2003

dojang redux

It is accomplished.

The dojang are finished.

And they kick... fucking... ass.

I hate to admit it, but I was reading the fancy font on the Dol Sarang artist's name card wrong. He's not Mr. Seon.

He's Mr. Jeon.

I always make that mistake whenever people resort to funky Korean fonts. What threw me off was that his name card has a J-word in it near the bottom, but that J looked different from the J in Mr. Jeon's name. So I assumed Mr. Jeon was Mr. Seon, because the fancy J in his name looked like an S. Should've asked him outright.

But that is neither here nor there.

Let the commercial madness begin!

I have several Bodhidharma drawings and a few pieces of calligraphy I'm going to stamp and try to sell, here and online. Like other calligraphers, I'll be churning out similar "scenarios" in each piece. This isn't unheard-of when you sell art: for example, many Bodhidharma images (he's Dalma-daesa in Korea) show roughly the same thing: a scowling, hairy monk with an earring, large eyes, long earlobes, thick eyebrows (but no eyelids; the story is that Bodhidharma ripped off his eyelids to keep from sleeping during his nine-year meditation), and a sort of "halo," which Robert Pirsig in his book Lila calls "the dharmakaya light." I can't tell if Pirsig's joking. (Remember from my previous post, I told you that lila is a Sanskrit term used in Hinduism to indicate divine play.) Dharmakaya literally means "body of teaching," but can also refer to absolute reality. As you might guess, Buddhists don't see these two definitions as unrelated. They are, like all phenomena, not-two.

I've also done some fun scenarios showing a young Korean monk in an intense staring contest with a goofy-looking tiger. Very cartoonish, rather Western-looking in style. This is actually a scene out of a book I'm currently writing, called The San-shin's Tiger (probably available late next year, at the rate I'm going, but I'll give periodic updates).

I'm still trying to figure out what the best caption or proverb should be for this staring contest scenario. Patience? Strength? Endurance? "Be kind to all creatures?" On my first attempt, I wrote ho shim, or "tiger mind," as the two major Chinese characters in the scene. I don't know whether this will fly, because "tiger mind" (it could also translate "tiger heart") isn't exactly your standard Buddhist concept. I'm trying to convey ferocious determination/effort. Maybe yong maeng jong jin is better; this is the Sino-Korean term for a one-week period of near-constant seated meditation done in the week before the Buddha's birthday. Dr. Robert Buswell translates this term as "ferocious effort." My fear, though, is that it won't make sense with the picture. I may stick to something more conventional, given an ironic twist by the picture: "You must learn to see yourself in the other."

Captions/proverbs are important in brush art. Pictures of Bodhidharma usually have the characters ki shim ("ki mind" or "heart of ki") or bul shim ("Buddha mind") on them. I've also snuck the characters seong do onto a couple Bodhidharma pics and calligraphic pieces. Seong do is the East Asian Buddhist term for enlightenment (well, one of several terms for enlightenment, actually). I like it because it carries a lot of history: it's the product of the early interaction between Indian Buddhism, which arrived in China a few decades after Jesus' death, and the native Chinese religions, especially Taoism. Seong do literally means "attaining the Tao"-- i.e., Buddhist enlightenment has been rendered in Taoist terms, thereby losing and gaining something in translation.

[Trivia: I don't speak Chinese, but my Buddhism prof at Catholic U., Dr. Jones, mentioned that in the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" there's a scene near the beginning where Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) asks Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat), according to the English subtitle, "You were enlightened?"-- but in reality what she said was, "You attained the Tao?"]

Back to things capitalist.

I know you don't want to buy anything from me unless you can see the merchandise. That's understandable. Since each piece of calligraphy and each brush drawing is unique, I won't be displaying every single piece online. Instead, I'll be displaying what I think will be a decent example of the scenario(s) in question. Details will vary, as they must. You might see a Bodhidharma with "Buddha mind" displayed on the blog, but what you receive in the mail might be a Bodhidharma that says "Ki mind." Since both of these are perfectly standard Bodhidharma scenarios, I consider them interchangeable and hope you won't feel cheated if you don't receive exactly what's displayed on the blog. However, if you have your heart set on one particular scenario, email me your preference and I'll accommodate you. Because THAT, my friend, is customer service.

I will probably start a second blog and let that be the place to show the pics of the items. It'll also sport all the PayPal buttons. As things stand, I think I'm going to sell the calligraphy, unframed (you get to frame it), for $30, and drawings for $45, because they're calligraphy PLUS art, and take longer to do.

I may start selling framed works and works done up as scrolls, but if I'm paying to get that work done here, and it costs $25-50 extra to do it, then obviously the cost will be reflected in what I charge you (assume W30,000 for scrolls, W50,000-W150,000 for frames, depending on what size and quality we're talking about). Framed works are heavy and will cost more to ship as well; this, unfortunately, will also be reflected in the cost.

If you walk through Insa-dong, you see a lot of hand-drawn art and calligraphy. Prices range all over. I think that $30 and $45 are good midrange prices for the work I'm hoping to do. If I'm able to make greeting cards & so on in the months ahead, I'll probably sell those in 20-packs for about $20-30 each. Obviously, those will be prints, not originals.

I may also do some Bodhidharma parodies, perhaps as tee shirt designs. These will sell better among foreigners than they will among Koreans, who will probably take a dim view of such irreverence.

More on this as it develops!

In other news, a must-read over at Merde in France: an interview with Maurice Dantec, a French writer currently living in Canada and not particularly sympathetic to the current French attitude. I'd call his views... strong.

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