“Society is so close to nature yet many do not even bat an eyelid to its beauty”
Is it possible that we are losing touch with nature? That our minds are too occupied to really appreciate the world just outside our front door? Such questions were asked by Syuhei Hasado as he pondered on what to design for the Haptic exhibition in Japan. Believing that humans are “forgetting the sense of feeling by the skin of our hands and feet”, he re-appropriates traditional Japanese slippers made to be worn barefoot (called geta), out of natural materials like clay, moss and wood, hoping to spark the realisation of having lost touch with nature within his viewers. Hence Hasado’s Geta is a parody on human behaviour in today’s social media controlled, modern society.
Syuhei Hasado is said to be one of the finest modern plaster craftsmen in Japan with his work at a level of complexity that can be mistaken as machine-made. Born in Takayama, a central region in Japan that is surrounded by mountains, he grew up in the midst of nature. It is evident that his upbringing there has directed his design practice as it always expresses his desire to reflect nature’s beauty—especially to those living in modern urban environments containing limited natural elements. He has designed things ranging from living structures and walls, to objects for exhibitions, all inspired by and having an element of nature. Geta is a thought-provoking exhibition piece that utilises his expertise of material practice as a way of conveying how we lack interaction with nature. Tactility is key in this work, combining real natural elements with a shoe, a protective device that automatically distances us from “Earth”. Juxtaposing these two elements together, Hasado comments on how society is so close to nature yet many do not even bat an eyelid to its beauty. Using natural elements like live, growing moss and pine needles, he is able to meaningfully reflect nature’s beauty due to the Japanese culture’s inherent appreciation “of the beauty of raw materials”. It is interesting to note that some of the Geta would not last too long if they were used by a human due to it being trampled on by the feet, constantly squishing and bruising the natural elements beneath. This just demonstrates the fragility of nature and how humans can be quite abusive of it at the expense of their own gain, often taking it for granted. Huichun Chen mentions that senses on the bottom of one’s feet used to be “very helpful to primitive man” in distinguishing which ground would be most suitable for growth in terms of food and population. Realising that humans once relied so heavily on nature but are presently more interested in or too busy with unnatural elements of life, could have been another factor that drove Hasado’s passion to express nature’s beauty to those oblivious to it. Hasado successfully uses parody by introducing the possibility of “wearing” nature on one’s feet to feel it’s presence even though walking on actual ground would make much more sense. Yen Chen Chang’s The Touch of Breeze similarly conveys the irony of staying indoors to enjoy the breeze from a fan when you could be enjoying real breeze from wind outside. Using a touch sensitive green fluffy carpet resembling grass, the user strokes it to activate the fan—the harder you stroke on the grassy sensory surface, the stronger the wind the fan generates. Even though it is quite ironic, it is effective in providing a relaxing experience and reminds the user of the beauty in nature, something that Hasado desires to bring across with his Geta.
Interestingly, there is an aesthetically similar product to Hasado’s Geta called Lawn Grass Slippers that are available for purchase online. However the idea of mass-producing nature with modern methods is extremely ironic as nature’s beauty is derived from gradually progressive growth over time. This beauty is not only confined to the generalization of “nature is beautiful”, but also the “beauty in nature” such as “the weed in my otherwise tidy front lawn” or the “faint red glow of a distant star” as described by Ronald Moore. Geta differs from Lawn Grass Slippers as it’s purpose is to reflect the beauty of and within nature, whilst the slippers become humourous—due to the manufacturing process behind it—and therefore are more of a novelty rather than a reminder of natural environmental beauty. Syuhei Hasado demonstrates that nature’s beauty should be noticed and appreciated by everyone through his use of subtle parody. The wide range of natural materials used in his Geta collection is also a major component that expresses the fragility and beauty of/within nature, encouraging us to take a moment and consider the natural beauty of Mother Earth.