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May 18th, 2000
Japanese Master's Multi-media Achievements Inspire Museum's Interactive Project

In the spirit of the multi-talented 17th-century Japanese artist whose celebrated creativity crossed mediums and disciplines, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has developed a groundbreaking interactive component for the The Arts of Hon'ami Koetsu: Japanese Renaissance Master, an exhibition on view from July 29 through October 29, 2000. Intended to engage the senses, Koetsu's spectacular achievements in calligraphy, ceramics and lacquer are now too rare and fragile to be touched. In response to this challenge, the Museum, in collaboration with the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences (IAMAS) in Gifu, Japan, has created two important and instructive adjuncts to the exhibition: Koetsu's Crane Scroll and Shichiri (Seven Leagues) Tea Bowl made "handle-able" through a new high-tech computer system. The multi-media project is made possible in part by The Juroku Bank, Ltd., and Itochu International, with equipment donations from Sony Corporation, USA.

The Crane Scroll has been designated an "Important Cultural Property" by the Japanese government, and is on loan from the Kyoto National Museum. Originally, Japanese scrolls were "interactive," for they were meant to be touched and unrolled. Like the original, the "virtual" scroll developed for The Arts of Hon'ami Koetsu is made from Japanese paper and rolled on spools. Advanced technology will allow visitors to "virtually" handle the scroll and experience its movement--as if through their own hands. The virtual handscroll may be rolled at one's own pace, prompting the computer monitor to display corresponding sections of the original, accompanied by a translation and recorded chanting of the poems.

The tea ceremony is a signature achievement of Japanese culture, in which a small group of friends gather to share an experience at once social, aesthetic and spiritual. The Shichiri teabowl from The Gotoh Museum, Tokyo, was analyzed in detail with computer- tomography (CT) scanning. This data was used to make a resin-cast interface teabowl that matches the original in weight and texture. This model allows exhibition visitors to handle the teabowl--noting its chadamari (the inside bottom) and kodai (ring-like base), among other features--as they might during a tea ceremony, and carefully examine the surfaces of the original, which will be displayed on a monitor.

"One of the great virtues of the new digital media is its ability to reacquaint contemporary audiences with older artistic traditions," notes The Arts of Hon'ami Koetsu exhibition- organizer Dr. Felice Fischer, The Luther W. Brady Curator of Japanese Art and Acting Curator of East Asian Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Koetsu's art reflects some of the most essential and cherished values of Japanese culture. By utilizing cutting-edge technology to present his work, we hope to make traditional Japanese forms accessible and comprehensible to Museum-visitors from throughout the world."

The Arts of Hon'ami Koetsu: Japanese Renaissance Master is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan; and The Japan Foundation. It is supported in part by generous grants from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc., The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support was provided by Japan Airlines; William M. Hollis, Jr., and Andrea M. Baldeck, M.D.; Mr. and Mrs. Howard H. Lewis; and The Rosenkranz Foundation, Inc. Initial funding was provided by the Luther W. Brady, Jr., Endowment for Japanese Art Research Support.

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