Futon Hanging out of 7th Floor Window

(I’m looking back at previous writings about art, Folks)
Futon Hanging Out of 7th Floor Windowred futon - china highrise

My 1967 photographs of Tokyo lowrises
included brightly colored futons hanging to air
on banisters on second floors of wooden houses.

My 2007 favorite digital image of a highrise
in the outskirts of Shanghai included one red futon
hanging out a window on the seventh floor – the one
bright spot amidst the thousand or so closed
windows of a group of tenement buildings.

I choose to compare Tokyo and Shanghai forty years apart.
Life hadn’t changed much in Tokyo in forty years – there were
still the high and low rises, the Chuo-sen train with its
orderly riders, even when crammed together at rush hour.

It was my first trip to China in ’07, so I didn’t have a 1967
image of China. The ’07 image of
thousands of the blank windows interrupted by one red futon
represented a stark contrast for me regarding communism.

The touches of individuality in Japan were everywhere in 1967.
They impressed me enough for me to be a Japanophile my whole life.
The touches of individuality in China were few and far between,
I wondered if the provincial housing authority would reprimand
whoever it was who had hung their red futon out to air from
the seventh floor window of the thirty-story high rise.

Individuality is squelched in all cultures though, including our own.
And such squelching
is fodder for creative types who write about it.
The outsider is my favorite area of study, especially
when an artist can draw millions of followers into that
outsider perspective.

Indeed, we are in an era when we can see how many millions are affected
by an individual leader of a country or by a particular international artist;
we need only look at Nielson TV Ratings or the numbers of hits on a Tweeter tweet.

Today, in newspapers and online, a syndicated cartoonist depicted President Obama
as an indecisive leader drawing him with squiggly lines, having an insubstantial body.
This critique which will align people into various political camps. But
look at the history of this individual who became president of the United States.
He was an outsider and speaks up for those who live outside accepted societal norms.

An example of a female outsider is Mary Oliver, an internationally known poet who celebrates
the natural world. Similar to Obama in her unconventional childhood, she developed her
individual style which millions buy into – with heart and soul (and, fortunately, with money too).

In celebrating the individual, great masses of people. which institutions and governments
seek to control, are divided up into millions of little self-creating entities. Is that image frightening? Does it sound chaotic? What if everyone in Shanghai’s huge tenement
hung their futons out to air?

It would make for a giant collage much in the style of a work by Romare Bearden, Pablo Picasso or
Chuck Close. The only way to mess up the painting/collage would be if the Chinese
government sent out a dictum that all futons had to be of a certain color and size.

Ugh! Viva that futon hanging from the seventh floor of a tenement in China and here’s hoping
more will follow in that individual style…

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