A Body in Places FAQ
photo by Kaitlin Chan

A Body in Places FAQ

Adapted from an interview with Michelle Ng of Delta Zhi, a Hong Kong-based monthly arts and culture magazine:

--Could you share with us some thoughts about your latest work and working as a solo artist?
In this new project, my first solo work, I am bringing my own body as a wonderer. I perform without the frame of a normal theater with a stage, audience seats, theatrical lights, and other conventions. In performing in a public space without a theater tickets, I am aware that no one has to watch me or stay with me.  I am most vulnerable and least “entertaining” and " understandable" in a way that mainstream theater or music can be. I like this unknown-ness as a solo performer, no director, and no meeting.  So my notion is to wander, breathe, investigate, and share a time and place with an audience who is willing to watch and support my exploration.

I have worked in the duet form, as Eiko + Koma for forty years. We have performed at major theaters, museums, and festivals worldwide. As I turned 60 a few years ago, I asked myself a question: what have I not done? Looking back at my youth, my ambition was always to be the kind of individual who could stand alone. Now, dancing solo and leaving the theater, I feel I am metaphorically more naked. I like the ways people see my body and know that I need their help. A performance happens with a gaze. The audience indeed helps me with their imaginations and empathy.

--Does this work explore something about human conditions or connections?
The only thing we humans have equally is that we are all born and we all die. Everything else seems to be uneven but being a contemporary artist and citizen, I grapple with the ridiculousness of where we humans are as a species. I detest the notion of progress. I think humans have turned a corner, some time ago, where we started to consider all that we do to be “progress.” I want to bring back the sense of caution, hesitation, and find what we are antagonistic against. That is, for me, seeking our own human condition and dignity.  And we humans also are animals, often hurtful animals. When I dance I often can exist in a way not too human-centric, which in turn brings me back to face what it means to be human. 

--Have you done any special physical and mental training leading up to this work?
Since 1972, I have been a professional performer. I hope that my practice as a performer is also a kind of training.  My discipline is being flexible. I am not the kind of a dancer who needs daily classes or has to spend hours in a gym. I have never wanted to present my body as “dancer-like” or physically more capable than others. Instead, I’ve always wanted to present my body as something that anyone could connect to.   In this project I go further, however. I think I am presenting my body in such a way that, in a construction of a performance, people are allowing themselves to watch what they usually want to avoid to look in the fear of the unknown, “the other,” and the pitiful.

--On A Body in Fukushima:
I went to Fukushima with only a photographer, William Johnston. We went to the places. where all the people are gone. My audience was only the camera or the residue of past occupants. Therefore, there was no live feedback from the audience. In seeing the deep pain humans caused on people and into the environment, I was torn with remorse and anger, which I still carry. It has never been so clear to me that humans fail. The problem is that humans, when we fail,   hurt other beings and the environment. I decided that I will remember this and will carry this thought and Fukushima with me.