The Fitful Flog

November 24, 2009

O or Non-O?

This is Vincent Floderer demonstrating his crimp method of folding a mushroom. It came to my attention on the that directory of wonderful things, bOING-bOING, where it was posted under the heading, Perfect mushroom origami. I’ve never seen Floderer fold before, though I’ve admired his work for some years. This is brilliant stuff and well worth investigating.

The reason I’m posting it here is that the post was followed by a flurry of comments by people saying, very nice, but it’s not origami — it’s papercraft or paper sculpture or maybe something like papier maché. When it was objected that this kind of folding was widely accepted within the origami community, there were comments about modern origami and how it’s not classical origami and so on.  Classical? We had a classical period? Does he mean the Tokugawa?

What these well-meaning folks meant and could not articulate was that Floderer’s folding did not fit with their concept of origami.  The Internet was made for such opinions — nothing slips through the tubes faster than informal fallacy. I sympathize: I am full of opinion. Half the time, I’m not even aware I have an opinion on something until people ask me and then it just comes out. Once, I was at this bus station and a Nestorian bishop walked up and asked me how I felt about the filioque controversy. So I told him. We went ten rounds before he won on points. Yeah, that’s right, defining terms and kicking ass. But afterwards, I’m on the bus to the next town and I’m thinking, “I have an opinion on this?” I found I did — it was informed and not badly set out. Well, opinions are free and we’re all free to have them. Doesn’t mean they’re right.

There are some things that are origami and some things that are not. I’ll grant you, the border can be fuzzy and I tell you this because I live in the marchlands: oschene knows from fuzzy. Papercraft, for instance, definitely not origami. Why not? Not because it has cuts — a lot of origami involves cuts, particularly that from the Tokugawa period. Not because there’s glue — yes, some origami has glue in it. No, it’s because papercraft, when it refers to this kind of papercraft, finds its shape in cutting and gluing and folding. This is its essence and that’s okay. I understand that people who practice papercraft pay their taxes, mostly, and are kind to their mothers. Relatively few of them are Nestorians.

On the other hand, Floderer’s work seeks its shape in creases and the creases are induced by folding. When he folds, he wears his intention on his sleeve and folds with authority. He maintains a sense of humor while he works. The man’s a genius — what he practices is origami. Yes, that’s my opinion, but I speak it with vatic certainty. As a fuzzy fringe-dweller, I have leapfrogged Time and return to tell you that this is O and that the non-O people will simply have to come to terms with it.

If you are an O person and disagree with me, you should certainly feel free to say so. But I insist that you define your terms and guard your left ear.

Update: It occurs to me that this post is missing something in a major way: a link to Vincent Floderer’s site and in particular, to an excellent article on this kind of origami in art and nature.

4 Responses to “O or Non-O?”

  1. 1
    malachi Says:

    Preach it, brother. It always raises my hackles when someone tries to box or constrain origami too much, almost always citing “tradition” as the excuse for what are really somewhat arbitrary restrictions.

    You just keep adding to the litany of reasons that I respect you and the work you do. Keep up the good work.


  2. 2
    Norberto Kawakami Says:

    Koshiro Hatoshi, an origamist of Japan Origami Academic Society, arises some issues in his article One Crease Origami: What Is Origami? where some boundaries in paperfolding are discussed. So, how can common people see a paperwork as a Origami or not, if the matter is controvertial even to origamists?

    By the way, the Crumpling Folding (or froissage) was invented by Paul Jackson and it is considered ORIGAMI by the origami community, so the negative commenters at boing-boing seems to be unaware of that.

  3. 3
    oschene Says:

    @malachi Thank you, a compliment worth having. Children observe their surroundings and learn to generalize: they make rules and try to force the environment to conform to them. (This is where grammar comes from, but don’t tell anyone.) Children amend the rules as they grow and learn about new exceptions. Somewhere around age 13, that stops. As adults, we generalize our observations and accept the results as gospel truth. Nowhere is that more evident than in the comments on that bOING-bOING post. Half-ignorant dogmatism will kill art faster than most things, I think.

    @Norberto Thanks for the link. I like the definition he gives very much, “Origami is bringing out, through folding, the shape of paper which was not evident before folding.” That totally works for me.

  4. 4
    Dave Brill Says:

    Here’s more about Vincent and his extraordinary work: have a look at the catalogue produced by the Freising Origami Gallery (buy one if you don’t have it already!)

    From a dyed-in-the-wool Floderer foldie…

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