MCA to host Eiko & Koma retrospective

  • Chicago Tribune, June 21, 2011
  • Sid Smith

Bold and provocative for four decades now, the Japanese-American performance team known as Eiko & Koma are due for a major retrospective.

One challenge in launching such a project stems from the interdisciplinary nature of their work: the husband-and-wife team (Eiko and Takashi Koma Otake offstage) are variously visual artists, performance artists and dancers. A thorough retrospective needs an exhibition space, a stage and no small amount of vision.

Enter the Museum of Contemporary Art, home to both galleries and theater and about to launch a major re-examination of the duo's works, one involving both live performances, an exhibit to run Friday through Nov. 13 and ties to other efforts nationwide.

"We're presenting key elements of their career in all the different forms in which they've worked," Peter Taub, the MCA's director of performance programs, said. "They'll perform on our concert stage. They'll perform in the midst of their own installations. There will be site specific performances, and we're providing photos, videos and set pieces from points in their works throughout their career. It's something unusual for the dance field — a museum exhibition."

Dubbed "Time Is Not Even, Space Is Not Empty," the exhibit is multi-faceted. Eiko & Koma will perform "Naked" CQ (which indeed involves some nudity) Friday through Sunday and again Tuesday in the MCA galleries in a kind of living installation, inside a sculptural "human nest" made up of twigs, feathers and canvas. Holes in the canvas allow visitors to peek at the performance before entering the structure. Video monitors that are part of the exhibit will offer views of past performances.

The MCA endeavor is also tied to a larger, nationwide series celebrating the twosome, including their traveling "The Caravan Project," which involves a trailer that will be parked in the MCA Plaza and serve as setting and stage when they return Aug. 23-24. The couple later perform a concert of indoor works, "Regeneration," Sept. 22-24 at the MCA Stage. They perform "Naked" again Nov. 8-13.

Taub, who's co-curator of the retrospective with the artists themselves, said, "They have been quietly, resolutely and consistently making some of the most powerful dance work that I know of over a long period of time. They've almost created their own field. They're not strictly butoh. They're not strictly postmodern. They're not strictly conceptual artists. They've carved out their own path and made their lives the pursuit of it."

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