Malene Lundén: Calligraphy in Japan

I said


Calligraphy in Japan

A crane, or rather a flock of cranes, is like a set of fishing stakes in close race with a pier where it’s not about getting first in port. The cranes stand out as being carved out of a very special kind of marble, cool and cold and with a surface that doesn’t even crack. The crane is a mystery of life and death, wrapped in a robe of immutable beauty. A declaration of love with a 20 year run-up.

Japan, you are like a Thousand and a Day adventure. An oblong country that just lies there and teaches me about the great things of life and about the art of making oneself available. The beauty of space and power cannot be seen or understood at the same time. The mysteries only appear if we make ourselves available and train the repetition credo with the body’s physical ability.

This is an article on art across culture, a desire to acquire knowledge of aikido and calligraphy, a tribute to experiencing democracy and people when we are at our best.

Posted from 9th floor at Art Hotel in Nigartar, Japan, overlooking the train station. I stand in the night dark with a real concern for “what I will do in case of an earthquake”.

Malene Annikki Lundén.

Beauty, space, strength





Info and background

How is beauty, space and power sensed? That is one of my big questions that I work with professionally in the GATEWAY Japan / Denmark project. The project explores in size, power, form and direction what our consciousness can as a community.

A small part of the overall academic background and knowledge is taken from two Japanese art disciplines. Parts of their practice form the basis of a prototype design which was used in 2015 at Aarhus, Copenhagen and Samsø. 


The first art discipline consists of the ancient and sacred martial arts Aikido. The name means roughly the following: AI stands for Coolness, KI stands for Energy, and DO stands for Art. Aikido contributes to the prototype with freedom of action, as Aikido is a martial art founded to promote harmony and peace, and struggle without aggression.

Aikido should be seen as a dance that educates the individual to slowly question the postulate: ‘one can only survive if one is the strongest.’ Aikido is promoted by training and you can learn the art of space and power in the understanding of what your movements can do when you have learned to move and sense space without aggression. Then things can arise as a narrative that enables you to bend and become like a blade of grass that can withstand even the hurricane’s race. Aikido taught me a much deeper understanding of space. There is space that is not filled. The picture here is a work with 3 dimensions:

The objects stand out as white triangles, one by one disappearing out of space, and the room is left without objects. That means rooms without objects, space without interpretations, a space in its own, free form. Professionally, I explore beauty, and parts of the beauty I examine and entrepreneur in this prototype are not always existing and may be referred to as space / space of white noise / silence. A great and alluring mystery! A mystery which, without having to sound too strange, exists, is around everything and can be described as a mass contained in space and power and beauty when more than the individual participates. It can be interpreted as spirituality or religion, but it is not. 


The second art discipline is a written language taught in school in Japan. Calligraphy today has a practice and an impact of good and evil in the Japanese culture.

I am driven by the calligraphy as an artistic practice because it is cultivated and refined and still today contains many layers of mysteries that cannot be explained. With the calligraphy as an art form I have acknowledged that I will never master it, and therefore I have included the Master Calligraphist Sakamoto in the process, which means that the participants are apprentices. Together, we have discovered that calligraphy is simple and has a refinement technique that is easy to access.  In the process I have composed a single drama in the middle of the method, which briefly means that the calligraphy is used in a completely different way than usual. This intervention causes the art form to shake and hits the Japanese in a releasing manner in relation to their upbringing and perception of calligraphy. The risk promotes and binds both the work and the participants together. 

Prototype method and motive

In its basic form, the prototype contains three compositions:

 The first part is about democracy, dialogue and the simplification of the 17 UN world goals from 17 to 1, from colors to black and white. The second part is about sensing and learning again by using ink and white paper. The third part brings together the two previous processes into a work of art that calligraphy concludes with the text from the world goal. As a community / group, the participants must enter into dialogue and prioritize, for example, whether Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation, is more crucial than Goal 11: Sustainable cities and local communities.  The group’s participants must agree to choose the most important world goal by raising their hands as voice and visuality. Then a representative of the group is chosen who becomes the climax of the process when he or she performs a powerful movement with ink and brush and forms the basis for the final calligraphy which Sakomoto completes with expert and experienced hand.  

A group of designers and a new form of design are born!

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