The Lister List

Origami Evolution

John Smith certainly raises some difficult issues in his posting of 4th August.

May I say, first, that I broadly agree with his division of the evolution of origami into four general periods. The evolution of paperfolding from an traditional pastime into a self-conscious art form can be conveniently divided in this way. That is provided that the divisions are taken as general periods in time and not as definitions of particular styles of paperfolding.

I would, however, choose different names from those chosen by John for the four periods. I should prefer the following names for names for John's Classical, Neo-Classical, Modern and Hyper-Modern, namely:

Primitive, Classical, Experimental, Modern.

The next point I want to make is that "classical" and "classic" are words which have different meanings (although in practice, there is much confusion). Both words are capable of several definitions. Classic usually means "of acknowledged excellence". It does not indicate a particular style of art. One can, for instance talk of classic Jazz or of classic Rock.

"Classical" has more meanings, often very distinct ones.. It may relate to the art of classical Greece or Rome. (Obviously that meaning will not apply to paperfolding). In music, its common meaning is to distinguish classical music from popular music. But within the context of classical music itself, it is used to distinguish music of the classical style (e.g. the music of Haydn and Mozart and their contemporaries) from that of other styles such as Baroque or Romantic. There are somewhat different usages in the visual arts. However, the general meaning of "classical" in the arts, whether music, painting or architecture is to indicate art which follows ideal forms and which possesses serenity, restraint and balance. This meaning contrasts in differing contexts with with terms such as as "baroque" or "expressionist" or "romantic"

I will consider in turn, John's four catagories or periods, as I prefer to call them.

Classical (JS) Primitive (DL) :

I find it difficult to apply the word "classical" in the sense that I understand the word, to traditional folding, even though many of its models use symmetry. I do not consider that because something is symmatric it is necessarily classical, despite the fact that what is classical is often symmetrical. I find it even less appropriate to apply the term "classical" to the early adult folding of Japan from the Senbazuru Orikata, through the Kayaragusa, to the work of Michio Uchiyama, all of which styles which use extensive cutting. My preferred term for the folding of this period would be "Primitive".

Neo Classical (JS) Classical (DL):

I would prefer to use the term "Classical" for this period, when Yoshizawa and to a less extent Uchiyama were bringing about a revolution in paperfolding., I would also add the work of the Spaniard, Unamuno and also Solorzano and Ligia Montoya in Argentina..They certainly used the bird and frog bases (which I would term "classic", not "classical"). Their techniques were restrained and their models balanced. Except in very few instances, there was still no use of blintzed bases, even though both Yoshizawa and Uchiyama made detailed studies of fundamental crease patterns.

Modern (JS) Experimental (DL)

This was the great period of experiment and change. Elias, Rohm and Yoshizawa were only three of the folders of the era who were striving to find more ways of escaping from the confines of the square. I would add to these, at least Skillman, Cerceda, Rhoades, Nakano, Hulme, Brill and Wall. Others folders of this period explored the possibilities of modular folding. Blintz folding greatly extended the potentialities of the classic bases. Other lines of exploration were in the direction of box-pleating. Almost daily, the techniques of paperfolding were extended beyond what had hitherto been thought

Hyper-Modern (JS) Modern (DL):

If we adopt the name "Experimental" for John's "Modern" period, it frees the word "Modern" for what he calls his "Hyper modern" period . I certainly agree that we are now in a new period, whatever name is given to it and I think that the salient characteristics of the present period which John outlines are correct.

Inevitably, styles and techniques of Origami will develop even further and that shall be able to apply the names "Post Modern" or "Hyper Modern" to a new period of Origami, the characterisitcs of which we cannot yet begin to visualise.

I have to reiterate that I consider these terms are only those for broad periods of Origami and that they are not the terms applicable to particular styles of Origami An analysis of different styles would be much more complicated.

Paul Jackson asked John Smith to clarify what he meant by classic Origami. I'm not at all sure what either Paul or John really meant by the term "Classic Origami". Were they confusing "Classic origami" with "Classical Origami"? All I do know is that words have to be defined either by common usage or by a generally accepted dictionary or by the user of the word. I'm not sure that anyone has yet defined the words "Classic Origami".

Discussions of this kind, though abstruse, greatly add to our understanding of the nature of Origami. The better our understanding of the nature of origami, then the clearer can see the ways to new developments. There is a need for a much wider study of the history of origami in all its aspects.

David Lister

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