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art and the planted aquarium
I read the conversation regarding art and the aquarium. The exchange of
thoughts made for interesting reading.
I haven't had the opportunity to see the results from the ADA contest,
or to contrast them to the AGA contest entries. Certainly I would not
be surprised if there were a large gap in the level of expertise
illustrated in the contests -- particularly when comparing to the
Japanese entries. Aquascaping is a fairly simple extension of some more
traditional Japanese arts and pastimes -- bonsai, bonkei, suiseki and
ikebana for instance. It seems that in Japanese tradition visual art is
pervasive -- it is in the trees and the flowers and the rocks; it is
vital and 3-dimensional. By contrast, art in the European tradition
(and hence common US culture) is something apart from everyday life.
Visual art is generally inanimate and most often two-dimensional.
We in the US have a long way to go before we reach the level of
refinement reached by aquascaping in Japan.
James mentioned that during the planning discussions for the first AGA
contest I brought up the subject of "art" in aquascaping. In that
discussion I was surprised -- shocked actually -- to find that the word
"art" was a loaded term. Maybe I was naive. People regarded it as
something done by artists -- something that they as aquarists could
never, would never do. Judging aquascaping as art may have been one of
the most polarizing subjects brought up in those discussions.
A couple years ago Karen Randall asked an open question to the list.
Paraphrasing, "what are your priorites as an aquatic gardener?" Most of
the respondents replied that their first or second priority was to have
a beautiful aquarium. Karen, as I recall, was surprised by that. I
think she expected most people to follow more traditional gardening
goals; growing more kinds of plants, or maybe growing plants bigger or
growing plants faster.
Those who are not only interested in having a pretty tank, but also
willing to put in the effort necessary to raise their tanks to the level
of art are probably a minority voice on APD. There are also the
gadgeteers and the technicians, the gardeners, the botanists, the fish
keepers and the marketers. Probably most of us are in the middle,
wanting to enjoy many aspects of the hobby. Between the extremes of the
hobby the divisions can be fairly deep.
There's room here for all of us, but from my point of view I'd rather
hear more discussion of asymmetry and juxtaposition and maybe less
discussion of charts and fertilizers.