Essay

Director’s Note [2016 AUTUMN]

“She would take on their punctuation. She waits to service this. Theirs. Punctuation. She would become, herself, demarcations.”
−Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee

This is the seventh time Kyoto Experiment has been held. This year it is held twice, in spring and autumn, so we hope this festival also proves an opportunity to share with audiences what has emerged from a certain degree of continuity and symmetry.

In contrast to the spring festival and its emphasis on physicality, the program for the autumn festival explores theater and the frameworks that prescribe our world, namely, language and borders.

Entrants like Kuro Tanino’s Niwa Gekidan Penino, which is reviving a play fresh from winning the 60th Kishida Kunio Drama Award, Meiro Koizumi, who exhibits a video installation about confession, and eminent Indian director Sankar Venkateswaran, who stages Shogo Ohta’s landmark work of “silent theater,” The Water Station, all present unique styles and ways of telling stories.

The program also includes three works that consider various borders that partition our world today, such as by nationality or the language used to convey history. Mark Teh turns to the recent history of Malaysia, where he is based, and encourages us to take a multifaceted view of the past. Vienna-based Japanese artist Michikazu Matsune presents a provocative performance about nationality, ethnicity, and identity. Kinoshita-Kabuki, based in Kyoto, brings a contemporary approach to kabuki, drawing out its latent appeal for audiences today. The company reinterprets Kanjincho, a classic tale of loyalty, as a play about borders in the modern world.

In terms of continuity with the spring festival, the sustained international partnerships we have long highlighted also carry on this autumn. The choreography Luis Garay returns to Japan, following his much-acclaimed debut here in 2014, and will create a new work with Japanese collaborators through a long-term residency. In addition, there is a new adaptation and staging of Zoo by the Bangkok-based Japanese director Chiharu Shinoda. Written by Manuela Infante, it deals with issues of postcolonialism in Chile and previously appeared at Kyoto Experiment in spring. The design and architecture research project researchlight also continues. This time it examines the theme of dialogue, developing open experiments in public spaces in the hope of expanding not only the physical place of a festival but also the arts.

As an extension of this aim, Play Park is a mini festival within the festival, bringing together previous initiatives for involving children in the production and staging of theater. As the name suggests, Play Park features a lineup not just for kids but also ideal for adults unfamiliar with theater and dance, and aspires to broaden encounters with the arts.

In terms of expanse, Kyoto Experiment has always been conscious of the transboundary nature of arts. This festival we comprehensively introduce the multifaceted activities of two globally influential artists, Ryoji Ikeda and Martin Creed, whose work develops the potential for artistic expression.

The Argentinian theater artist and filmmaker Federico León is also establishing this expression as part of the next generation. This is his second visit to Japan since 2010.

Another aspect of the festival is the Fringe: Open Entry Performance program, which once again has attracted numerous participants and can be confidently said makes the festival a richer experience.

However, if we recall “borders,” the word that flows underneath the autumn program, I believe that making the festival into a truly festive place is not at all easy. This is because we can sense that the implicit meaning of this word embodies how the society in which we live today reinforces divisions. Globalization has advanced since the end of the 20th century, leading to the appearance of buzzwords like “borderless” and “the disappearance of the outside.” But in reality, we could also say that it has merely boosted westernization, in response to which a range of situations have alienated us from freedom of action or thought, taking us to a more dangerous place. The present has moved progressively away from a state of struggling to engage in dialogue with others to a state of being utterly unable to perceive the very existence of others.

If we consider the meaning of the arts in terms of this, I think it lies in the process of artistic creation. We can say that the arts are a way of producing new values, though we could also say that this is because individual or collective senses transcend control and evoke a response, and develop diversely. In that case, what is important is firstly whether society can permit this kind of unpredictable process for the arts to exist.

And to permit the other (that is, what is unpredictable), it is necessary for us to have hope for the unpredictable (that is, the future). In this sense, the arts are a touchstone for our society, or even an inspiration to us.

Kyoto Experiment 2016 Autumn is grounded on an understanding of the state of the arts today and the current sense of crisis in society. However, the festival also now opens as an act of quietly opening a door to new possibilities without losing our hope for the future.

Yusuke Hashimoto
Program Director, Kyoto Experiment & the Kyoto Experiment team

July 2016