Tag Archives: minimalism

Werner Herzog on Material Things

I do not have and I do not need material things. My material world is extremely small and limited. I own one single suit that I’m wearing right now and in the last 25 years I’ve never had another suit. And the shoes that I’m wearing I’ve been wearing for 3 years and they are my only pair of shoes. I need to replace them because they are starting to come apart. I don’t need 20 pairs of shoes. I have a car that I’ve had for 12 years. It’s fine, I enjoy life and things are very basic. I don’t have social networks in the Internet for example. I don’t even have a cell phone. I’m probably the last to holdout. I just don’t want to be available all the time. I love to connect with people but in a more fundamental way. I never go to parties, but I invite friends and I cook for them.

Werner Herzog

Self-Denial

Ryan Gosling in Drive with the Filson duffle bag he lugs around containing, presumably, all his earthly possessions.

A character who needs the accoutrements of worldly success will never be seen by the audience as heroic. Heroes are invariably ascetic, denying themselves pleasures and comforts that ordinary people take for granted.… In war films, the hero often declines invitations to partake of food or sex…. The hero can’t relax, can’t have fun. In westerns … all he owns in this world is in that tiny bundle behind the saddle we see when he first appears. We don’t know if he ever changes his shirt or if he even has a shirt to change into, so minimal are his earthly possessions. In detective, police, mystery, and spy films, the central character usually lives in a one-room apartment … but it’s hard to say the hero lives there – it’s where he flops when he’s overcome with exhaustion.… Like religious and mythical heroes of earlier years, the hero is in this world, but not of it. He denies himself the pleasures ordinary mortals yearn for precisely because he isn’t an ordinary mortal.

—Howard Suber, The Power of Film

The Joy of Less

“I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media – and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack.

“I’m no Buddhist monk, and I can’t say I’m in love with renunciation in itself, or traveling an hour or more to print out an article I’ve written, or missing out on the N.B.A. Finals. But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did. And it seemed quite useful to take a clear, hard look at what really led to peace of mind or absorption (the closest I’ve come to understanding happiness). Not having a car gives me volumes not to think or worry about, and makes walks around the neighborhood a daily adventure. Lacking a cell phone and high-speed Internet, I have time to play ping-pong every evening, to write long letters to old friends and to go shopping for my sweetheart (or to track down old baubles for two kids who are now out in the world).

“When the phone does ring – once a week – I’m thrilled, as I never was when the phone rang in my overcrowded office in Rockefeller Center. And when I return to the United States every three months or so and pick up a newspaper, I find I haven’t missed much at all. While I’ve been rereading P.G. Wodehouse, or Walden, the crazily accelerating roller-coaster of the 24/7 news cycle has propelled people up and down and down and up and then left them pretty much where they started. ‘I call that man rich,’ Henry James’s Ralph Touchett observes in Portrait of a Lady, ‘who can satisfy the requirements of his imagination.’ Living in the future tense never did that for me.”

Pico Iyer, “The Joy of Less”

Less Is More

Those who judge minimalism by its appearance alone will call it spartan, austere, even soulless. But art and design are not just about appearances. Ornamentation is not art. Great art is about heightening our experiences. To me, the minimalist aesthetic is the most humanist of all, one that elicits the full power of all our senses.

—Richard Meier, GQ, September 2008