The current roof restoration at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden creates a fantastic opportunity to think about vehicles of cultural transmission. With the invitation of Japanese craftspeople, working with age old practices and Japanese tools to restore precious hinoki bark on a Japanese house in the unexpected bosom of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, one may start to wonder about how physical things are imbued with cultural significance and how culture is transmitted through our interaction with those things. What physical attribute communicates the most about a culture or history? Is it color, shape, sound or somethings else entirely?
Bucks County-based artist (and former resident artist at Shofuso) Aaron Mannino has been thinking a lot about the peculiar pronouncements of textures, and not just the hinoki bark that constitutes Shofuso’s impressive roof. Take, for instance, a kimono. Someone who has worn a kimono understands something profound about Japan – more so than someone who has not. They have felt both the elegance and the constraint of that garment and what those two things may imply. They have felt the stitches of brocade in an obi and thus gained an impression of that arduous weaving process while contending with the posture it reinforces.
Shofuso hosts a bounty of such indicative textures, all of which communicate the Japanese origins of the house blended with its Pennsylvania home. From the froth of matcha tea and the sheer velvet of sakura petals to the slickness of tatami mats and the crunch of pine needles, Shofuso continuously and quietly speaks.
From now through the first months of Shofuso’s spring 2018 season, visitors are encouraged to take close-up photos of their favorite textures and patterns on their next visit, then share them using the hashtag #shofusotextures on Instagram. Be part of an effort to collect all of Shofuso’s myriad textures and see how something so specific can also be so universal. Explore how tactile impressions can constitute a cultural experience on the level of the senses rather than the intellect. This library of textures connects to Mannino’s upcoming arts project and exhibition Texture Mapping, which will use texture as a basis for visual storytelling that binds Shofuso and Philadelphia even further.