Essay

Director’s Note [2016 SPRING]

Historical sense […] is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together…
ーT.S. Eliot, Tradition and the Individual Talent

Kyoto Experiment, until now an autumn festival, will be held for the first time in the spring. For this sixth festival, we had some extra time to prepare, which gave us space to think anew about the structure and meaning of the programming. I would like to introduce this here.

The Official Program can be presented according to several axes. The first is an attempt to trace the headstream of contemporary performing arts through the work of Trisha Brown Dance Company, Dairakudakan, and Yukichi Matsumoto. During the 1960-1970s in New York where Brown was based, the situation almost parallels what happened in Tokyo, with a wide range of talents coming together across fields to work collaboratively, greatly influencing their respective later artistic fields and society as a whole. By positioning Boris Charmatz, the champion of the French dance scene who has previously confronted the work of past choreographers, as part of this, we want to make audiences conscious of one of the major trends of our times.

The second axis is a collection of new works created collaboratively by leading artists who have come after this first generation. In the new works, which see the theater company Chiten team up again with composer Masahiro Miwa, chelfitsch partner with visual artist Tsuyoshi Hisakado, and composer Tomomi Adachi join performance group contact Gonzo and children, we can clearly see powerful currents abundant in ambition and a sense of purpose as pilots of the next generation.

A third axis is an attempt to follow, rather than their work, the personal activities of artists as a sustainable, international exchange project. Choy Ka Fai and David Wampach, who have both been previously associated with Kyoto Experiment in various ways, return to Kyoto with new works to develop their projects. Chile’s latest star Manuela Infante is also bringing her work to Japan for the first time, marking the start of a new long-term project engaging with Chilean and Spanish-language theater.

The final axis is a new research project called researchlight. Kyoto Experiment has always transcended the borders between performing arts, visual art, and music to present a wide range of work that is full of potential and cannot be divided by labels. In order to take this a step further, we want to broaden our programming to include also design and architecture, which, in the sense that they plan and design things, are contiguous with the arts and into which people’s experiences are vividly interwoven.

In this sense, this is not unrelated to the opening of ROHM Theatre Kyoto as a new hub for the arts in Kyoto. This facility will continually be questioned regarding its involvement with society. As part of this, I want to stop thinking just about the vector of whether or not it is useful to society. The reason is that this vector feels like it is controlled by that dreary idea cooked up by those involved with the arts that art somehow exists “above” society. If this facility is to have meaning as a lived-in space with a sense of humanity, then surely it is vital to interweave avidly the daily actions and experiences of people in order for it to be “livable.” Turning the vector on its head, what is needed now is to open up the possibilities for the everyday and society to penetrate into the arts.

So while a festival that calls itself “Kyoto Experiment” cannot help always being conscious of the “new,” it must also simultaneously explore the issues of what is “new” and within what scope of time does something count as new.

The playwright and director Shogo Ota once wrote the following: “The performing arts place the anima of expression in simultaneous generation and extinction. Its materials are made possible at a place involving a live humanity. In a sense, is artistic expression not rooted in a conflict with the moment that exists within the universe and eternity of our lives?”

However, in reality our lives, constantly changing and evolving day by day, can’t help but feel alienated from the “eternity” that Ota professes. Tadeusz Kantor’s way of thinking, that the arts are a response to reality, possesses a kind of destructive power. This is because, regardless of whether we are aware of the word or not, contemporary artistic expression frequently demands reflexes that ask how we perceive the era and those problems (war, disaster) that arise in it as the direction of the overall arts. And so it is clear that both artists and us programmers are seized by the strong temptation to reflect these problems in art.

However, I wonder if merely relying on such reflexes is a methodology that can astutely grasp the sensibility of the zeitgeist. In order to exist with certainty, rather than coincidentally, as something born out of the contemporary, the art that Kyoto Experiment is attempting to pursue requires a sense of time with some bandwidth, one that traverses between the eternal and the momentary.

When I became aware of this sense of time, I wondered if I could lock down the next five years, with today, five years having already passed, as a turning point and this time span of 10 years as one period. And in doing so, would there be things that we could see for the first time? For our sixth installment, comprising also the Open Entry Performances fringe program that actually far outnumbers the Official Program, as well as the Showcase: Forecast program by two budding curators who will weave alternative perspectives into the festival, we can see indications of the future of Kyoto Experiment. I hope audiences enjoy the many programs we have organized in their respective ways. Both our future and these ways to enjoy the festival are open.

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