Essay

Director’s Note [2011]

Journey of perception ─ Festival for the future

In November, 2010, “KYOTO EXPERIMENT”, the first international performing arts festival in Kyoto, was launched. We are delighted to announce the opening of its second installment. The executive committee of “KYOTO EXPERIMENT” consists of Kyoto Art Center (founded in 2000), and Kyoto Performing Arts Center at Kyoto University of Art and Design (founded in 2001) among others. These organizations have not only fostered Kyoto’s performing arts scene over the decade and introduced great talents and leading figures, but also developed international performing arts networks. And it is true that “KYOTO EXPERIMENT” is, in some ways, the fruit of the efforts of its predecessors. At the opening of the second festival, I am determined to broaden this festival to be something we can pass on to the next generation, certainly not disregard the gifts of its predecessors, but, trying to look forward to the next ten years.

What is a festival for performing arts for in the first place? Is it to create a bustle? Or to create a market for theater work? They both represent a certain perspective. But that is not enough. I have asked myself the same question ever since preparing for the festival’s first year, but I still don’t have a solid answer. It is probably because “a performing arts festival in Kyoto” takes at least the two following elements into account: a response to the definition of performing art, and a response to the definition of Kyoto. As the title: Kyoto Experiment implies, this festival doesn’t accept the status quo but it considers performing arts as an embodiment of a changing society. It is also a process of examining the nature of Kyoto. In other words, it is a
“movement” in which we constantly make hypotheses, despite changing conditions, and try to verify them.

To achieve such purpose, I think the festival should introduce not only “work” itself but also the “artists” who created the work. We explore the way in which the artist’s face and gaze at our society becomes visible. This can be made possible by associating with artists on an ongoing basis and supporting them in the creation of new pieces that expose their work to an international audience. We especially focus on coproducing new work with Kyoto based companies and we are kicking off new projects with two young Kyoto artists this year. We also hope for dance to influence and be influenced by visual and film art without being fettered by existing genres, such as “theater” and “dance”, and to enhance the momentum for new creation.

This year, bodies with various backgrounds -Butoh, European ballet, Japanese contemporary dance and even androids- line up for the official program to shake up our perceptions. “Perception” may not be a daytoday word and feel a little unfamiliar. But I would like to use “perception” here and not “sense”. Because what we want to propose for the audience is not only to think intellectually but to feel his/ her body as a vessel and give one’s full attention to the works by opening all the body’s senses. There maybe something that only comes to the fore once one tries to listen to what his/her body, in a way passively, picks up. We have selected works in which bodily sensation becomes part of one’s train of thought. In addition, we present a significant rerun of brilliant work in the midst of the trend of consistently creating new work in Japanese contemporary performing arts. Like painting or music composition, works of performing art also need to be exposed to more eyes and be conserved as a cultural asset. Further, in the collaboration with “Panorama”, the dance festival in Brazil, we’ve launched a three year coproduction. Artists from each country will stay in the other country and each start an ongoing project of new creation. We hope this gives us the opportunity to reflect on our time and society using a different culture as a mirror.

The festival also has a mission to foster talent, not merely in the performing arts, that will play an important role in Kyoto’s future. What are the possibilities for bringing together the youth as well as the local community and performing arts? There are several precedents. Community Theater, is one example, but we are seeking a way for the youth and the local people to become mediators between artists and audience. Their mundane/real and live perspective should offer an advantage in being involved with production process. Their presence shall influence our whole organization and give an important evocation, instilling and making “KYOTO EXPERIMENT” grow in Kyoto.

Lastly, I would like to mention the difficulty we’ve faced since the disaster that hit last March. Art, including performing arts, has an important place in society and it has been greatly influenced by the tragedy. While it is no longer possible for artists and other art professionals to work as they used to, many people question themselves “what it is we should be doing right now?”, “what is the role of art?”. Some act on their own understanding but most people are left speechless and can’t seem to have any clear vision. I am one of them. But I know one thing, that what I can do as a man is to do my job steadily while offering my condolences for the lost lives and thinking of the people in pain. This festival is my job and I am grateful that we are able to carry on as originally planned. With all due respect, we shall carry out this grand project for the performing arts while maintaining a deep connection to the society we belong to.

July 28, 2011
Yusuke Hashimoto
Kyoto Experiment Program Director