The notion of „Oku„
Almost inseparable Ma, the word designates Inner world.
„A place situated profoundly in the interior of things, far from their external aspect“ (in Berque, 1982).
In Japan, the sacred or important places are often hidden or difficult to reach. A temple, in the depths of a valley, can only be found after a long and arduous journey. The research to find out about this place, the road that we travel with difficulty. All these actions are as important as what we are going to find in the place itself.
Today, even in Tokyo, the sought-after bars, the study groups, cannot be discovered without the right person, without the right initiator, after an adventure in which the logic is highly subjective.
A widely spread idea in Japan is that all knowledge, action and philosophy is part of a journey. This journey enables us to prepare ourselves for what we are going to find. It also enables us to disguise our curiosity and give us the desire to go on. Intuition, what comes afterwards, inside, the Oku.
Layer by layer, the progression enables us to come closer to our objective (and sometimes to see this point draw further away and grow bigger). It will be easy for the assiduous reader to guess a rhythm, on different planes, pauses, and that all this music is directly linked to the notion of Ma.
Having a vision of Oku is the ability to forecast, to guess events, places and people. Having a vision from an intuition. Or of course to pave the way for others.
In the martial arts, we can talk about the movements made by the Karate-Ka, imagining only one or several opponents. In Aïkido, the exchange between partners, often associated with a dance, is entirely dictated by the (potential) movements, invisible or unspecified. Moving or accepting an unbalance, to avoid an attack that is evident for the participants. Oku is that which is not visible. Oku suggests a latent possibility an absent party/something absent and for all that the evidence of the act.
Japanese Kinbaku is obviously linked to this notion. Depending of course on the context, the relationship of the protagonists, their physical, mental or spiritual states, each element of the bondage, each pose in the realisation, each well orchestrated exchange are so many signs of a continuation, or of something which „could be“. Two partners who know each other well can comfortably engage in a non-verbal discussion. Two others who are particularly receptive and attentive to the other will certainly do the same even if they know each other little or not at all.
This is, moreover, the reality of Oku, not regarding what the form will become, or what the protagonists wish to see: rather, regarding what they are going to feel. The movement of the ropes, far from designing forms on bodies, tells a story to those who know, or can read it … and perhaps also to those who seek to read it?
Like most Japanese art, Kinbaku has a physical representation to express a mental attitude and also a physical pursuit.
Sometimes, the exchange drives the impressions of the model, their loss of physical liberty until there is a derivation towards another world, another reality, chimera, without their even being conscious of it. A prodigiously orchestrated progression by the Nawashi (the binder) towards this mysterious place, the Oku.
This image by Nobuyoshi Araki, is in my opinion a good representation of Oku, like most of is work.