Essay

Director’s Note [2012]

Throw out the map. Encounter the world.

Kyoto Experiment welcomes its third year. Setting off without a concrete chart, it has gradually assumed its form as an international performing arts festival, finding its way forward and building a network of artists and companies encountered along the way. In the effort of annual hosting, we have developed a vision, not only for the programs, but also for how the organization should run in order for performing arts to take root in Kyoto. First, I would like to show my tremendous gratitude to those who have supported our attempt amid such a difficult time in history for performing arts programs, let alone dance festivals, to sustain themselves.

This year, Kyoto based company Chiten introduces a play for children for the first time since the company was founded. It will be the festival’s first children’s program as well. It is our desire to produce a larger repertoire and to foster the audience and performers of the future in Kyoto, where there is no theater supporting this kind of creative process. Kunio Sugihara, another artist from Kyoto, challenges to restage Sarachi (Vacant Lot), a work by Shogo Ota, his university mentor. How will this work resonate with contemporary Japan after its experience of the March 11th disasters? Sugihara’s perspective on today’s reality is tested. The recent collaboration of Junkan Project, a 5 year project at Kobe Dance Box, and Thikwa, sheds light on the borderlines that exist in our daily life and that define our perception and action, such as “normal (abled)” and “abnormal (disabled)”. The work by Potudo-ru questions our reality. Do not simply assume it’s a representation of life in Tokyo. It talks about a fundamental aspect of human existence– void, and what you see on the stage is rather fictional and metaphorical scenery. Lazyblood is a performance unit from Iceland. Their compelling performance, fully involving the audience, takes place at Kyoto’s legendary club, Metro where various genres of culture have interacted and stimulated creative minds. Ka Fai Choy from Singapore closes in on the idea of contemporary dance in his double bill performance. Today, Contemporary Dance has broad meanings and understandings throughout the world. Reflecting it both from personal memories of dancers as well as the history of dance, Choy’s exploration provides us with a vision for the future. This year’s artist from Brazil is Lia Rodrigues. Examining the relationship between the individual and the mass, her work reveals the political and historical background of Brazilian society. At the same time, her projects question what it is for art to be committed to society. Following last year’s project, Tadasu Takamine, from Japan, introduces work inspired by Brazil. His performance work embodies the correspondence between Japan and Brazil. One of the axes of this year’s program is “sound”. Ryoji Ikeda, composer and visual artist, introduces a audiovisual piece in a “theater” setting. The experience of being indulged with sound and images invokes very different perceptual experience from our day-to-day life and re-defines the idea of live performance. Is a mutual love between dance and music possible? ASA-CHANG, musician, responds to the one-way love from dance. The audience will witness how dance dimensionalizes the multilayer structure of music. Last but not least, is the video installation by Billy Cowie from Scotland, which is exhibited throughout the festival. The “absence” of the body in his 3D dance video provides us a clue to find where your consciousness on your own body lies. Taking a close look at each program, you may discern the reason for this line-up. However, I can imagine that some may find it a somewhat obscure list. Indeed, some works transgress the border of genre and other works are collaborations among artists from different backgrounds. They are the kind of work that is not easily categorized. But it is my intention to introduce these works in Kyoto Experiment. The words we use to categorize artwork are named only after its creation. I think art was once something much more ambiguous than what it is now. At least, it started as something more mysterious and alluring for that reason. But it has been segmentalized so that it can be understood easily and has now become a household notion. Such simplicity and clarity must be treated with skepticism. Today, all aspects of our lives are segmentalized to be clarified and the place for ambiguity is diminishing. This is happening both in reality and in our perception of reality. How can we continue to have an imagination that allows us to cope with the difficulties in life under such conditions, where there is no room for new and uncategorized elements?

When I thought of what’s in common with the program of 2012, phrases like “create a new map” or “redraw the map” first came to mind. Despite its intensity and simplicity, even the familiarity, the description didn’t feel right. Because a “map” is something that’s created by someone and projects that person’s perspective on to the world. I realized I need further delicacy when using the word “map” in regard to art and culture. Lamenting the fact Japan, and even more so Kyoto, is a remote part of the world, and trying to create a new map with the idea that Kyoto as the center of art is not our intention. That suggests a certain arrogance and danger in isolation. Kyoto Experiment is not shaped upon the traditional spirit of adventure nor the ambition to expand the map in a concentric fashion. In this day and age, there is no longer a “center”. And we can link with the “world”, which we expect to encounter, in other words the “other”, by creating networks. We no longer need to be a majority for our voice to be heard. It is more meaningful to have direct and sincere dialogues with peers who are scattered around the world than feeling ashamed about not being a majority. And I believe that art has a certain potential to provide a platform for such dialogues. That’s why I think we probably don’t need maps any longer. And the catch copy for Kyoto Experiment 2012 has become “Throw out the map. Encounter the world.” I think many people have likely figured that out, too.

Yusuke Hashimoto (Program Director, Kyoto Experiment) and Festival Team