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First-hand Experiences Shuzo Takiguchi

I learned how to write words by hand just like everybody else. Also how to write in ink, using that instrument with the rather old-fashioned sounding name, the fountain pen. Around the same time, I also learned to write with brush pens, pencils, and even ball pens.

In early 1960, based on some insignificant motive or other, I began tracing and drawing lines-lines, not letters-in my sketchbooks with a fountain pen. I shall not mention my motives again. They were not letters. They may have been symbols of some sort but, in any case, their source and location was uncertain. Seen from the outside, those movements may have looked like arduous work for an appendage to undertake, but staring at my own hand, I caught glimpses of unusual behaviour lurking in the shadows of the usual habits...

The profile of a hand experiencing something new. A hand's unknown handiwork.

We often hear talk of the basics, the ABC of drawing. When I set out, I had no intention of making pictures at all. Yet strangely enough, as I worked my way through dozens of sketchbooks, I grew conscious of the fact that I was arriving at the entrance-or perhaps the exit-of this ABC, whether I liked it or not... It was not at all like what we call the foundation or the basis of artistic technique, though. Where do pictures come from? Once again I have come to find that question most interesting in and of itself.

I am not talking about their historical origin. If anything, the question is more one of identifying the starting point of a magnetic force that is perpetually changing-though even that is a somewhat suspicious act. As I go on drawing, I finally realize that, when I reach a certain speed, my lines start to appear automatically. Quite irritating, even if I do say so myself. However, these quick-fingered movements bring about gestures I do not recognise. Almost certainly, these gestures come with the automatic choices that speed brings.

The hands find a way to have fun. That much is certain, be it with substances, or with tools.

An extreme example of this comes when you grip three different coloured ball pens in one hand at the same time. A fitful dance of the fingers. Like the farces performed during the interval at Noh plays.

Blue ink serves as a kind of colouring, and I begin to use water with it. No brushes, but some sponges. The nib of the fountain pen breaks. I begin to use G pens, or disposable chopsticks that are close to hand. I use drawing ink like Pelican at the same time as regular writing ink. It is a pain to have to wait for the ink to dry before turning the page, so I start using blotting paper. The sudden adhesion of the blotting paper enables the continuity of the task at hand. (Note: I have also tried burning the paper, exposing it to the smoke of a candle, experimenting with using water and fire together, drawing concentric circles using a revolving motor, decalcomania, and plenty more experiments. I shall omit the details here)

However, in the moment at which the paper adheres to coloured surface, a subdued effect takes place. It is like knocking on one of the small windows in the picture, or straddling the threshold of its back door. But I retreat again. My motive was not to create such things, after all.

I collect the blotting paper that has absorbed most of the ink and water from the surface of the paper into a pile, and it begins to exist in and of itself. It is the other half of the ying and yang, and the proof of the act. Or else an unnecessary, wasteful act, a terrible crime...

Unable to bring myself to throw it out, I make three books with it. Ironically enough, I give them names, something I've never done for any of the countless lines I've drawn. There was “Matthias Grunewald's Lost Diary, or the Artist's Handbook", and "BLOTTING PAPER IS SOMETHING. ET CETERA." I forget the name of the other one. (I've now given them to Y. O.)

Hands are themselves the symbols of collaborative human endeavour. People can even read their destinies in them. People that have lost their hands, for better or worse, may well have invisible hands-better hands, with their own destinies to be read. My experiment is something that everybody is capable of. While it contains many possibilities, however, it also has its limits. It's my hands that discovered that. But these hands have also led me to discover the presence of some kind of endless cycle. What about your hands?

*Originally published in “Transonic Quarterly”, Issue 2, Zen-on Music Company Limited, April 1974
Translated by polly Barton
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