DANSPACE PROJECT PRESENTS: A BODY IN PLACES: EIKO AT ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES
February 17 – March 23 on Wednesdays at 7 pm
EIKO IN PERSON FOR ALL SCREENINGS!
As part of Danspace Project's Platform, Anthology of Film Archives will present films guest-curated by Eiko, showcasing movies that have influenced her work and that speak to her chosen theme, A BODY IN PLACES. The series pairs each feature film with short works by Eiko, Eiko & Koma, and John Killacky.
The films and videos in this series illuminate bodies in particular places. How are humans conditioned by the characteristics of places? How do we contribute to and survive the characteristics of places? How do people move from one place to another, and by doing so, how do they leave traces and residues in the places they leave behind?
SCHEDULE AND PROGRAM DESCRIPTION (Wednesdays at 7 pm)
Feb 17. PROGRAM 1: A BODY IN MOURNING
I grew up in post-war Japan, devouring the works of those who experienced WWII. Popular entertainment, from movies to manga, were also suffused with memories of the War. Without experiencing the War, our generation were influenced by the grotesqueness of massive violence. Soon after 9/11, I began thinking about how dying in mass violence is different from dying from a disease or an accident. Why does it matter how we die? Then I realized that, however painful the process of dying, one who dies a personal death at least dies his or her own death. A personal death receives personal attention. Dying in the midst of massive violence means dying with great upset of many. Massive violence deprives a person his or her own personal death.
Kon Ichikawa: THE BURMESE HARP
1956, 116 min, 16mm, b&w. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Mizushima, the protagonist of THE BURMESE HARP witnesses countless corpses as he wanders through Burma. Fear, remorse, and hesitation gradually transform this survivor into a mourner. Wishing to attend and bury the dead, he ultimately tells himself, “I cannot return to Japan.” Film director Ichikawa described THE BURMESE HARP as the first film he felt a profound need to make.
Eiko & Koma and James Byrne: UNDERTOW 1988, 7 min, 16mm b&w
UNDERTOW is a work choreographed for the camera in collaboration with video artist James Byrne. Eiko & Koma’s two naked bodies float in the space of an existential limbo.
Feb.24. PROGRAM 2: BODIES IN WATER
We all come from water and water courses through our bodies. We are a bubble floating down the river of life to the unknown. Water is both a source of life and a threat. When water becomes a menace to our lives and senses, our existence is truly frightened.
Andrzej Wajda: KANAL
1956, 95 min, 35mm, b&w. In Polish with English subtitles.
KANAL follows a near-decimated company of Polish resistance fighters as they make a final effort to escape the encircling Nazis through the sewers of Warsaw. A merciless view of their flight through the putrid waters, KANAL is a story void of glory and nearly void of hope, where the desire for dignity, even survival, becomes faint. Wajda was an important figure for our youth in Japan. When Eiko & Koma performed in the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in 2007, founded by Wajda in Krakow, Poland, we had the pleasure of meeting the filmmaker and telling him how his ASHES AND DIAMONDS had had a special meaning for those of us who were student fighters in the political movements of the late ‘60s. His KANAL inspired Koma and me in 1989 to create the work, CANAL, a work for several naked bodies, whose stage design suggested both urban sewers and the blood stream of a body.
Eiko & Koma: WALLOW 1984, 19 min, video
WALLOW was our first attempt to create dance for a camera, shot in Point Reyes, California.
Mar.2. PROGRAM 3: BODIES ON AN ISLAND
Nakedness is my life-long theme: artistically, physically, and metaphorically. THE NAKED ISLAND depicts the life of a family on a small island that barely provides them with the means for subsistence. Like THE NAKED ISLAND, Eiko & Koma’s “living installations” are place-based works. In a gallery, we create another place where we exist and move as inhabitants.
Kaneto Shindo: THE NAKED ISLAND
1960, 96 min, 35mm, b&w. In Japanese with English subtitles.
The poetic, dialogue-free THE NAKED ISLAND is one of my favorite films. Shindo created the first Japanese independent film production company in 1950 and never returned to mainstream productions throughout his career, which lasted until his death in 2012 at the age of 100. THE NAKED ISLAND is a model of low budget filmmaking. The minimal cast and crew all camped out at the location, sharing all the necessary labor. This method, which Shindo adhered to for most of his career, deeply influenced generations of Japanese independent filmmakers. EIko & Koma ahs also taken the same path. Shot on Sukun-jima in the gentle Seto Inland Sea, NAKED ISLAND seems at first like a fable but its description of the surrounding society is in fact a realistic one.
Eiko & Koma: HUSK 1987, 9 min, 16mm
HUSK is my solo; Koma was on camera. We wanted to create a dance poem of an unnamed body in an unnamed place. The choreography of both body and camera was created to make an unedited media work.
Mar.9. PROGRAM 4: BODIES IN MINAMATA
Noriaki Tsuchimoto: MINAMATA: THE VICTIMS AND THEIR WORLD
1971, 120 min, 16mm. In Japanese with English subtitles. This screening is co-organized by The Japan Foundation.
I grew up in postwar, post-occupation Japan, an era of rapid economic growth accompanied by pollution and environmental hazards. It was clear that corporations did not care for much besides profit. Minamata is a city in southern Japan that gave its name to a fatal disease caused by the most notorious environmental hazard in Japan’s history. Fishermen, their families, and their pets were the first victims to suffer from methylmercury poisoning by eating fish harvested from the sea that, for 36 years, was contaminated by a fertilizer factory. The victims’ anger and their efforts to create normalcy within their abnormal situation deliver a deep sense of urgency. That urgency also manifested in other resistance movements, which affected the ways in which some of my own generation thought of the world and learned ways to live and fight.
Eiko & Koma and James Byrne: LAMENT 1985, 9 min, 16mm
We collaborated with James Byrne to create LAMENT in the mid-1980s when I saw many colleagues and friends become sick and die of AIDS. To live is to witness the suffering of others, and to see the wrongs of the society that creates this suffering. To acknowledge this suffering and to maintain mourning for it is to willfully refuse to forget.
Mar. 16. PROGRAM 5: BODIES IN A CROWD
I met Mura Dehn by accident soon after Koma and I arrived in New York. Surprised by how little sense of rhythm I have as a dancer, Mura offered to teach me her “compromised version of jazz dance for Eiko.” It is a quintessentially New York story of how two young Japanese artists in their 20s ended up inheriting from an old Russian Jewish friend the wealth of African American people dancing their hearts out in the Savoy Ballroom of pre-war Harlem. In the sea of African Americans, Mura was often the only white person dancing. She said the entire Savoy was bustling with dancing energy. One dancer in her film says, “Spirit moves me. When spirit leaves me I stop dancing.”
Mura Dehn: THE SPIRIT MOVES: A HISTORY OF BLACK SOCIAL DANCE ON FILM
1987, 119 min, 16mm
Dehn, born and first trained in dance in Russia, moved to Europe to study at the Isadora Duncan School. Later she studied jazz and immigrated to the US in 1930. She found the most exciting jazz dancing at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. First as a dancer, then as a filmmaker, she immersed herself among the most brilliant African American dancers. Her magisterial, three-part documentary features her own narration.
Eiko Otake: A BODY IN A STATION 2015, 15 min, digital
An excerpt from Eiko’s performance at Fulton Center in Lower Manhattan in June 2015. Camera by Alexis Moh; edited by Alexis Moh with Eiko.
Mar. 23. PROGRAM 6: A BODY IN A CHAIR: BODIES AWAKE
I have long felt that dance does not belong only to the young, healthy, and athletic. Here are some clear examples of old and challenged bodies dancing in mourning of the lost.
Otsu Koshiro: INNER MONOLOGUE
2005, 100 min, digital. In Japanese with English subtitles.
I studied with Butoh’s founder Kazuo Ohno in 1971-72 and again in 1975-76. He was always disappointed by my leaving for faraway places like Europe and the US. Having spent nine years in the War, Ohno, upon his return, danced with urgency, perhaps also with remorse. In 1977, at the age of 70, he danced La Argentina, his homage to famed Spanish dancer La Argentina, whom he saw in 1929. He performed six seasons in New York, the last in December 1999 at the age of 93, his very final concert abroad. He soon suffered a fall that advanced his Alzheimer’s. However, with the help of his son Yoshito Ohno, he continued to dance on a chair, both in his studio and in the theaters of various cities. Though his memories and steps were lost, his dancing clearly lived on in his body and mind. Ohno danced and murmured, “If I cannot dance, why have I climbed this mountain?”
John Killacky and Steve Grandell: STOLEN SHADOWS 1996, 10 min, video
John Killacky DREAMING AWAKE 2003, 5 min, video
STOLEN SHADOWS is a black and white film lamenting on the mounting losses from the AIDS pandemic. DREAMING AWAKE juxtaposes a narrator in a wheelchair with the movement of nude dancers. A surgical mishap left Killacky paralyzed. He willed himself to re-learn and train his new body.
EIKO AND JOHN KILLACKY WILL INTRODUCE THE SCREENING!
The BODY IN PLACES film series is co-presented by Danspace Project and Anthology Film Archives, and co-organized by The Japan Foundation. Curated by Eiko, who is also the author of all the film descriptions above. Eiko is grateful for the assistance of Alexis Moh throughout the planning and presentation of the Platform. Special thanks as well to Lydia Bell and Judy Hussie-Taylor (Danspace Project) and to Kanako Shirasaki (Japan Foundation).