The Naked Truth

The Naked Truth

  • The Diamondback, may 3, 2012
  • Beena Raghavendran

"Please touch, but do not tug.”

The black lettering on a sign at the entrance of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center library is stark, museum-like.

The space has become a time capsule. The pieces hanging on the walls and ceiling range from a rust-speckled piece of cloth used in a 2011 set to a video of a performance in 1980 to a vest from a 1976 piece.

The exhibition is “Residue,” which, since the start of the school year, has showcased several works by CSPAC’s in-house performance artists Eiko and Koma Otake, spanning their 40-year career.

The duo, internationally famous for their Japanese choreography, will perform its third and final piece, The Caravan Project, which opened yesterday and will run tonight on CSPAC’s front lawn.

“It’s over 40 years now, and it’s just the two of us,” Eiko Otake said. “When you are in a family, you have a special way of talking to each other, start to develop a certain way. That’s what we did, pretty much our own style.”

The evolution of Eiko and Koma’s work mirrors the growth of CSPAC, making the pair natural in-house residents for the center’s 10th anniversary season, said CSPAC Artistic Initiatives Director Paul Brohan.

“Our history with Eiko and Koma reflects an exploration and a collaboration of exploration together, which is part of the reason they were a good fit for us in our 10th anniversary,” Brohan said.

Eiko and Koma’s first appearance at CSPAC was during the 2005-06 season in the Cambodian storytelling performance Cambodian Stories, Brohan said.

The pair is influenced by Japan after World War II and the aftermath of the nuclear events there, he added.

Eiko Otake said she and Koma also create costumes, set pieces and other theatrical elements.

The two perform several pieces without clothing, which reinforces their themes of stark humanity, Brohan said.

“They’re very clear that their nakedness is nothing more than exposure of the human, so in that regard, their work runs along many spectrums of accessibility and understanding,” Brohan said.

A trailer open on all four sides (with Eiko and Koma inside) will take its place on CSPAC’s front lawn for the next two nights for The Caravan Project, a work first performed in 1999.

A piece always performed outdoors, The Caravan Project takes place after dark without any music so audiences can feel the naturalness of the outdoors, Eiko and Koma’s website said.

In September, the pair performed Regeneration, a combination of three of their previous pieces that documented their evolution as artists. Eiko and Koma then developed a collaboration with this university’s in-house ensemble for the Kronos Quartet, Fragile, in February. Eiko and Koma’s website describes Fragile as an emotional and intimate dance.

Brohan said the piece embodied CSPAC’s 10th anniversary theme of honoring history while looking forward.

Even at the end of the year-long engagement at CSPAC, Eiko Otake said the performances serve as a celebration.

“In a project like this, it’s a celebration of campus,” Otake said. “There’s no conclusion, but a sense of relief and satisfaction but also excitement to know the next phase is to come.”

Eiko and Koma perform The Caravan Project onCSPAC’s front lawn tonight at 8 p.m. The performance is free. For more information, visit claricesmithcenter.umd.edu.

raghavendran@umdbk.com