Many of the events that were staged this past fall inspired me to ponder the difference between "theatre" and "art".
Let me begin with Marebito-no Kai’s "Hiroshima-Hapcheon: Doubled Cities in Exhibition" (10/29, Kyoto Art Center), performed simultaneously by one single actor each at over ten different points inside the venue, a former elementary school. The piece themed around A-bomb experience in Hiroshima and Hapcheon, a Korean cities whose residents emigrated to Hiroshima in large numbers before and during the war, was based on the war-inexperienced performers' preliminary research. As reflected also in the subtitle, "Doubled Cities in Exhibition", playwright/director Matsuda Masataka announced a type of performance that "people can enjoy freely like an exhibition in a museum," but since current museums and exhibitions follow strict plans designed by their respective operators and curators, in this particular point I think the performance only vaguely resembled an "exhibition". As a matter of course, the piece was in fact based on a fixed timetable, so in terms of temporal organization it did fit perfectly in the "theatre" category.
Next is ARICA with "house=woman" (11/3, A to Z). The venue, "A to Z" is located in the basement of a 50-year-old building of a type that one wouldn't expect to find in Kabukicho, an area dotted with cabarets and host clubs. As usual, the stage was crowded with "PythagoraSwitch" like gimmicks, and together with thrilling live music, Ando Tomoko’s pliant and unpredictable performance, and the sounds of sirens that came floating in every now and then from the street, it was an extraordinary, somewhat "alien" kind of time-space that can only emerge in a superb theatre production. The piece was reportedly inspired by "Antigone", and as it seems, opposition to what Foucault called "biopower" is consistently one central theme in ARICA’s work. I really wonder why this one wasn't included in the "Festival/Tokyo (F/T)" program…
One particular reason behind this doubt is the thought that Ameya Norimizu’s "The shape of me" (11/4, Nishi-Sugamo Arts Factory & others) surely didn't have to be staged as part of F/T. That’s because it is — contrary to Sasaki Atsushi’s comment in his column in "Shincho" — unmistakably a work of art and nothing else. Each visitor was given a map to walk around a total of four "venues", starting from the garden of the Nishi-Sugamo Arts Factory, where a work that can only be seen as an homage to Mono-ha artist Sekine Nobuo was on display. The other three locations were abandoned buildings, visiting which inspired us to dig in our memory, and think about history, life and death, belief, and real and fictional stories. The final venue was a former medical clinic, and while for certain reasons I won't tell what was shown there as part of an installation in the same vein as the works of Christian Boltanski or Rebecca Horn, it was something quite extraordinary that kindled a fundamental sensation of fear.
Gisèle Vienne, "This is how you will disappear" (11/7 at Kyoto Performing Arts Center, Shunju-za). The stage was wrapped in Nakaya Fujiko’s dense fog, while deafening noise/music by Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehberg accompanied Takatani Shiro’s refined visual projections. Compared to the world premiere that I saw in Avignon last summer, the fog was thicker this time, the sound bigger, and in general the piece had more punch. The staff member I talked to was certainly right when he told me that this was the best performance so far. The monologues about such things as the (extinction and immortality of the) human body, Eros and violence were boring though, and there didn't actually have to be a story in the first place (although this may be a rather offensive remark…) Takatani Shiro witnessed the first performance in Japan of "La Chamber Claire" (11/27 at Biwako Hall, Otsu), and I would say that he delivered here an ambitious work that combined modern purity and postmodern extensity.
Christoph Marthaler, "Riesenbutzbach. A Permanent Colony" (11/19, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space). The performance began with a dozen actors' sighs. Their "conversations" were basically monologues, with dialogues going nowhere at all. A studio with paned windows set up in the back of the stage looked like a Panopticon – a connotation that was underpinned by two containers, housing a nail studio and a disco (that played "Stayin' Alive" on end) respectively, placed in front of it. Their narrow interiors reminded me of a concentration camp’s gas chamber, a prison cell, or a room of a mental hospital. The yellow Post-its a banker used in a foreclosure scene to mark objects made me think of the persecution of the Jews. One general theme that was clearly discernable in addition to criticism of financial capitalism was – just like in the case of ARICA’s piece – a critical attitude toward "biopower".
Other works that deserve to be mentioned include: tpt, "Les Parents Terribles" (11/2, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space); Chiten, "And Then Mr. Artaud," (11/4, Kyoto Art Center); faifai "Y ji no hanashi" (11/5, Atelier Gekken, Kyoto); Pichet Klunchun, "About Khon" (11/12, Kyoto Performing Arts Center, studio21); Tetsuwari (Crack Iron) Albatrossket, "Tetsuwari no Albatros ga: Kyoto version" (11/14, Art Complex 1928, Kyoto); Watanabe Moriaki/Kyoto Performing Arts Center, "Agatha" by Marguerite Duras (11/21 Kyoto Performing Arts Center, Shunju-za); Rodrigo García, "Versus" (11/24, Nishi-Sugamo Arts Factory); Atelier Duncan, "Asian Sweets" (11/25, The Suzunari); Kamimura Megumi Company, "Exclave" (11/26, Theater Green BOX in BOX); Wen Hui, "Memory" (11/27, Nishi-Sugamo Arts Factory); Takayama Akira, "The Complete Manual of Evacuation — Tokyo" (11/27, Railway stations on the Yamanote Line. I caught the events at Ueno, Sugamo, Ikebukuro and Otsuka); Yanagi Miwa, "Cafe Rottenmeier" (11/27, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, F/T Station).
Above all, I was genuinely touched by the fierceness of "Versus", a piece about poverty and violence; the ambitious attempt in "Exclave" to explore the relationship between language (dialogues) and body (movements) from a direction completely contrary to that of Chelfitsch; and the modernity of the way "The Complete Manual of Evacuation — Tokyo" made the viewer aware (though not in a "healing" kind of way) of foreign bodies that exist as fixtures in the city. Yanagi Miwa’s "elderly maid cafe" setting was brilliant, and in my view Yanagi has a vocation for theatre anyway. The artworks she has made so far were all kind of "theatrical" in one way or another. In addition to the difference between art and design, and between theatre and dance, what has been bugging me since seeing these shows is the difference between art and theatre.
Ozaki Tetsuya / Editor in chief / REALTOKYO