Kota Yamazaki’s second installation in his Darkness Odyssey trilogy, Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination, is a sublime and stunning work, running Dec 13-15 at Baryshnikov Arts Center. I saw it both in development during a BAC Artist Residency and at a final dress rehearsal on Wednesday, so while I didn’t get to encounter it in full performance, I find myself transformed by my viewing. In the sublime, we find both both the transitive verb and a kind of Buddhist harmony. Performances from Julian Barnett, Raja Kelly, Joanna Kotze, and Mina Nishimura elevate the solid to vapor and back again. The score by Kenta Nagai, lighting design by Thomas Dunn, and set and costume design by Yamazaki transport us to abodes divine. It is a living mobile, a performative sculpture of delicately balanced moments constructed of dancer, sound, and light – a fragile, magical collection of suspended gossamer and vibrating humans, slowly stirring, swirled by some hidden breeze. Like many of Kota’s recent works, this is a work I want to immerse myself in or return to again and again. Sitting in the front row of the Howard Gilman Performance Space, I felt as if I were almost inhabiting their fractal realm. I would have this piece on an endless loop that I might wander through like a cherry blossom viewing “hanami” stroll on the Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto, or to sit in the midst of like Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu’s hidden cave, or soak in like a yuzu-scented hinoki bath in the woods.
When I saw the showing at BAC months ago, I was captivated by each dancer’s individual passage through the piece. I recently asked them a few questions prior to the run.
Mina: Although we mainly have been working with Kota individually, this work asks performers to sensitize and maximize our listening skill and sensitivity to each other. Otherwise, it won’t work. We find a way to take an individual journey further and deeper while connecting to others with micro-level sensitivity. We do this in order to create the universe and the larger picture; it is one of the most important and challenging tasks given to performers!
In general, Kota communicates with dancers through his body. And unspeakable thoughts are transferred to dancers through his movements.
Mina: Having studied butoh and being close to Kasai-san and his family through Kota, I believe the legacy is, in a way, speaking to and alive in my body, although the influence may not be direct. Sometimes when I improvise, I feel Kasai-san’s forms in my body even if I had never studied with him directly. It is such a surprising, strange, but wonderful feeling. I’ve been individually studying and influenced by Hijikata’s butoh scores. It’s been part of my artistic practice and has been informing the way I approach dance.
However, Kota’s intention is not to pass this legacy to dancers, he has never spoken about it to the dancers. I feel like Kota considers butoh as more like a movement-based philosophy rather than as a specific dance form or technique. Anything can be embraced through the lens of butoh. But we as dancers have been learning the accumulated knowledge and history in Kota’s body by learning phrases he made or by being given specific approaches to movements.
Mina: Like the relationship to butoh, Deleuze and Guattari we never discussed as a group. But, by learning Kota’s approaches to body and movements, such as “no subject” “no-fixed body” “schizophrenic body” “fractal being” “always in a process of becoming, and never becomes anything” “pre-human body” “pre-body body” “vaporizing body” “extremely fragile body”, our bodies have been going through some states which might be aligned to some of Deluze and Guttari’s theories.
And I believe Kota’s approach to seeing and thinking without labeling and categorizing, but rather remaining in a blurry and soft vision can be a strong strategy to slip away from inescapable capitalism and to see the world which was forcefully divided into a thousand bits by human minds in a new way.
Can you share how Goze music has fed into the piece?
Mina: Goze music is from Northeastern Japan where Kota, Hijikata, and Kenta (composer) are all from. It is said that customs, lifestyles, and landscapes of the area formed a heart of Hijikata’s Ankoku-butoh. As composer, Kenta has been researching Goze, and his music is probably influenced even though it may not be obvious. I think images of Goze women (visually impaired women) have been very close to Kota as he grew up in the area. I can feel some images of these women in some of movement material I’ve been doing in this piece. But again, we never discussed it, and it is not Kota’s intention to represent these women’s images.
Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination continues tonight at 7:30pm at Baryshnikov Arts Center.