[A]n artifact of such utter simplicity and perfection that it seems it must be either the first object or the last…
– William Gibson
Hikaru dorodango derives from dorodango, a common pastime of Japanese school children. Coming from the words doro, meaning “mud” and dango, a type of Japanese flour cake, it consists of creating balls of mud that are molded into spheres by hand, then dried and polished to a luster. The process was later refined into the art hikaru (“shining”) dorodango.
From the Artist
I first learned of this Japanese art in William Gibson’s seminal essay, “SHINY BALLS OF MUD: WILLIAM GIBSON LOOKS AT JAPANESE PURSUITS OF PERFECTION”
While hikaru dorodango is perhaps the most minimal of arts, the process is incredibly complex. Different soils present unique challenges: different concentrations of clay, sand, or loam and innumerable variations in the qualities of all of the above. With every new soil I try I must relearn the process all over again; making modifications here and there to achieve the final result. Likewise, modulating different elements of my technique can yield very different results within the same soil. The textured dorodango, for example, arise from working the mudball for a longer period while it is still very wet.
I never tire of the cognitive switch that inevitably occurs – when regular dirt becomes something I care about. Within a few short minutes, the mudball takes on a personality of its own. First, it’s something inherited from the qualities of the soil itself, then it becomes something else. Cracks form and then ‘heal’ after layer upon layer is added . Traces of my hands evolve into strange patterns as the surface dries and tightens. You learn the topology of the object while your mind is off thinking about other things. It’s as much meditation as as it is art.
The hikaru dorodango selected for this exhibition are all created from individual soil deposits in New Mexico. Each dorodango is named after the location from which the soil was excavated.
More about Bruce Gardner’s Hikaru Dorodango:
- National Geographic – These Perfect, Shiny Spheres Started Out as Dirt
- Colossal – ‘Hikaru Dorodango’ is the Japanese Art of Turning Dirt into Perfect Spheres
Partners and Praise for Hikaru Dorodango
学校のグラウンドにあるような土、子どもたちの足下に普通に存在する土を使って光る玉を作る活動は古くからある日本の子どもの遊び文化の一つです。しかし、遊び素材の商品化の過度な進行とともに、日本でも10数年前にはこの文化が衰退・消失しかけていました。私が行った仕事は伝統的な製作方法を受け継ぎながら、完全に乾燥しても輝きを失わない製作方法を開発して、それを文字＆映像の両媒体で表現して後世に伝えることでした。この仕事が私の予想を越えた大きな反響を呼び、日本の子どもたちや教師たちにも広く受け入れられる結果になったこと、また私のサイトhttp://www.kyokyo-u.ac.jp/youkyou/4/english4.htmが海外の方にまで知られ、使用する土の選択や新しい技術の考案によって大人にとってのアートにまで発展させられてきていることに驚いています。日本の文化は着物や寿司などとともに海外でも知られてきているものがたくさんありますが、日本の子どもの遊びの文化はあまり知られていないと思います。Mr. William Gibsonの紹介に感謝します。Mr. Bruce Gardner氏の作品は私の制作物を越えた美しさを表しており、深い感動を覚えます。
Using soil from the grounds of preschool and elementary schools that lie beneath the feet of Japanese children to make shining orbs of mud is an old pastime of the Japanese youth. However about 10 to 20 years ago, with the growing progress of commercialized toys, our mud ball hobby was on the verge of extinction. Through inheriting the original and traditional methods of producing dorodango, I have developed one that lets the products keep their shine even when completely dry. In addition, I was able to pass them on to future generations through both written and visible mediums. To have dorodango known worldwide, as well as being accepted by Japanese children and teachers as a sensation has exceeded my expectations. I am surprised that even my website: http://www.kyokyo-u.ac.jp/youkyou/4/english4.htm has been known to people overseas and the creation of dorodango – from soil selection to the advanced technology has been developed to create an art not only for children, but for adults as well. Japanese culture outside of Japan consist of many things, such as kimono and sushi, but I believe the culture of children’s pastimes is not well known. I am thankful to Mr. William Gibson for his introduction to dorodango. Mr. Bruce Gardner’s work goes beyond my own and represents a certain beauty that leaves a lasting impression.
– Professor Fumio Kayo, Kyoto University of Education
About the Artist
Bruce Gardner is a lifelong resident of New Mexico.
He lives with his wife and children in Albuquerque and works as a software engineer.