Hiding ones’s emotions and feelings (Honne*) keeps the harmony…? | Alessandra Carosi

In this project I conducted an anthropology quest inside Japanese society investigating sociology issues and customs & traditional aspects addressing people public and private lives in order to focus on their expression of emotions so to create a visual poem.
As soon as I arrived in Japan I have been impressed by the extremely difficulty I experienced in reading people’s facial expressions. I eventually discovered a complete different mindset I became fascinated about, another way of approaching life, talking, expressing, leaving. Japan can be described as a conflict-avoiding culture. In Japanese this is explained by the concept of “wa”, literally “harmony.” Rules, customs and manners tend to avoid conflict. Japanese society expects people to hide their true feelings and opinions in many circumstances in order to keep the harmony safe. This situation is described also with the fundamental concept of Honne and Tatemae, that might be translated with “true opinion/honest talking” and “public face.” Tatemae is the idea that it’s often necessary to hide your true opinion in order to ensure social harmony. It is unusual to directly criticize someone in social situations. Coming from a more direct culture, where everything tend to be more clear and outspoken, these aspects were extremely interesting for me, I wanted to know more even if it has been complex to figure out another, alternative approach to life. In this project I decided to focus on the concept of hiding in a broader sense, without any negative sense or criticism. I tried to create connections among different aspects of Japanese culture that were reflecting this idea of hiding and its possible visual translations into real life situations: curtain, shadows, hidden beauties, but also typical ways of saying. For example a famous Japanese proverb is stating: (literally translation) Flower that is not talking/ Not saying is a flower (Iwanu ga hana). It could be translated as “some things are better left unsaid”. Silence is also a way for japanese to communicate without words, by “reading the air” (Kuuki Yomenai) and speak heart to heart. “Can’t read the air” means being unable to read a situation and as japanese people express way more with body language than words, it becomes necessary then to read between the lines. Harmony is also connected to the aesthetics and what is considered beautiful. We can find another example in Ikebana that draws from Japanese aesthetics (Mono No Aware) which can be translated with the “impermanence of things”. Japanese people consider beautiful what is simple, not superfluous but also impermanent. Ikebana, as well as Japanese shared values are also tightly tied with Zen principles of simplicity (substracting the superfluous), making void and austerity, indeed the zen circle represents the void and the emptiness together in harmony.
After understanding better their society, I question myself and Japanese people if it is true that hiding own’s Honne (real emotions and opinions) will keep the social harmony safe. In my explorations I found very interesting to see how different cultures perceive in alternative ways what is public and what is private, and, moreover, how they relate this spheres of their lives and the way they communicate their emotions.
My work consists of a combination, editing and re-contextualization of images to open new perspectives, generate new poetical visions, a new dialogue among images, questioning standards layers of narratives and denotative sense. I explore the creation of a deep emotional bound between people and images. Like an alchemist, I work with abstraction, evocation, colours and symbolism to translate psychological and emotional aspects into visual synesthesias.