Exhibition At Dove Cottage: 24 May – 2 November 2014
This exhibition at Dove Cottage was organised and curated by myself assisted by Janet Ross for WALK in collaboration with Jeff Cowton (Curator, the Wordsworth Trust). Wordsworth and Bashō: Walking Poets included original and facsimile copies of manuscripts by William and Dorothy Wordsworth and Matsuo Bashō. They were shown alongside new work by contemporary UK and Japanese artists who have responded to the manuscripts, including some work (see below) by myself. A full colour 200-page catalogue accompanied the show.
In many a walk
At evening or by moonlight, or reclined
At midday upon beds of forest moss,
Have we to Nature and her impulses
Of our whole being made free gift, and when
Our trance had left us, oft have we, by aid
Of the impressions which it left behind
Looked inward on ourselves, and learned, perhaps,
Something of what we are. (PW V 143)
Wordsworth and Bashō: Walking Poets is an exhibition of original and facsimile copies of manuscripts by William and Dorothy Wordsworth and Matsuo Bashō. They are shown alongside new work by contemporary UK and Japanese artists who have responded to the manuscripts, and what originally inspired them, in ways that are as fresh, creative and radical now as Wordsworth and Basho were during their lives. Artists in the show include: Ewan Clayton; Ken Cockburn; Alec Finlay; Christine Flint-Sato; Zaffar Kunial (Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth trust, 2014); Eiichi Kono; Manny Ling; Chris McHugh; Nobuya Monta; Inge Panneels; Andrew Richardson; Autumn Richardson; Nao Sakamoto; Minako Shirakura; Richard Skelton; Ayako Tani; Brian Thompson and myself (with two new works based on the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth (see below).
The exhibition (which is showing at Dove Cottage has been organised and curated by myself assisted by Janet Ross for WALK in collaboration with Jeff Cowton (Curator, the Wordsworth Trust) and is accompanied by a significant publication and opened to the public on the 24th May, running until the 2nd November 2014. The publication, which is published in English and Japanese, includes essays by: Professor Emeritus John Elder: Middlebury College, USA; Professor Shoko Azuma: Jumonji University; Tokyo; Dr. Kaz Oishi: University of Tokyo; Professor Ewan Clayton University of Sunderland; Pamela Woof – President of the Wordsworth Trust; Dr. Carol McKay – University of Sunderland and myself. Thanks also to Ayako Tani and Christopher McHugh for their help in liaising with the Japanese museums involved (Kyoto National Museum; Iga City Basho Memorial Museum; Waseda Library and Kakimori Bunko).
A number of reviews of the exhibition have appeared in both UK and Japanese publications including in the Guardian on 16th August (click here); this piece by Masanori Hiuchi in The Aishi Shimbum and an article by Adrian Mullen, the Arts Correspondence of the Westmoralnd Gazette (click here).
Although the Wordsworths and Bashō lived a century apart and in two very different cultures, it is, perhaps, surprising to find that there are a number of similarities between both their writing and the ideas that lay behind it.
Matsuo Bashō was born in Ueno (near Kyoto) in 1644 in Neo Confucian Japan. William Wordsworth was born just over a century later in 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumbria and Dorothy in 1771. At this time, Britain was undergoing an industrial revolution.
The most obvious ‘similarity’ between the Wordsworths and Bashō is that they were inveterate walkers whose practice of walking informed their writing. All three drew heavily on the natural world for their inspiration, although it would be misleading to label them ‘nature poets’ because they were also very much concerned with people. Some of the artists in this exhibition are themselves walkers; all have made work that is inspired by the natural world.
It may come as a surprise to realize that Wordsworth was a creative collaborator rather than the solitary genius often portrayed. He worked closely with Coleridge early in his career and his work owed much to his sister Dorothy.
Bashō also collaborated, undertaking his journeys with companions. The Narrow Road to the Deep North (for instance) is punctuated by references (and occasional contributions) from his companion, Sora.
It is in this spirit of collaboration that we invited a number of the artists in this exhibition to work collaboratively – and in the spirit of cultural exchange to encourage artists from the UK and Japan to work together.
The poetry and prose of Dorothy and William Wordsworth and Bashō emphasizes, in different ways, the importance of our emotional response to an experience of nature, developed through our active imagination. This approach is also shared by the contemporary artists in this exhibition and is even more important now than it was two centuries ago as our world is facing the twin evils of pollution and climate change.