Reflecting the Sky Experience in a Japanese Garden
Book chapter, 2015

When through the water’s thickness I see the tiling at the bottom of a pool, I do not see it despite the water and the reflections there; I see it through them and because of them”. With these lines the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty shows us how the artist in a creative conscious act mediates sensory experiences and memories to the spectator by his work of art. In the quote the sky is reflected into the water, present and absent at the same time. In this paper an image of a Japanese garden is examined as regards the sensorial qualities of space it mediates to us. Space and sky are examined as a part of spatiality in the landscape captured, in this essay, in photography from a Japanese garden. Through the lived body the artist is able to capture the interconnectedness and familiarity with the world that Merleau-Ponty names the ‘flesh.’ It is an experience mediated by the senses transformed into the image. In the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, man exists in dialog with the world and perception is a creative act. We perceive and co-create the world in every moment, being all “in-the-world.” Phenomena exist before our being conscious of them. Could the image of the sky, reflected in the water, not the actual sky itself, but present here-and-now as well as space, not present on a flat surface, be grasped by the photographic image mediated through our bodily memories, our ‘flesh,’ our familiarity, our interconnectedness with the world and the cosmos? Could the absence of the sky experienced be a form of presence?

Japanese garden - Reflection - Spatiality - Body - Photography


Lena Hopsch

Chalmers, Architecture

Analecta Husserliana, volume CXV, The Yearbook of Phenomenological Research, ed. Tymieniecka

978-94-017-9062-8 (ISBN)

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Subject Categories


Philosophy, Ethics and Religion





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