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InfiniteBody Part 5: Conversation without Walls | Eiko + Koma

My Eiko Journal: Part 5

  • InfiniteBody, March 12, 2016
  • Eva Yaa Asantewaa

My Eiko journal: Part 5
Eiko's A Body in Places
Conversation Without Walls: Bearing Witness
Friday, March 11 -- 4pm

Commemorating the fifth anniversary of Japan's triple disaster--earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactor meltdown--Eiko Otake and Danspace Project convened three rounds of hour-long conversations as part of A Body in Places. Scholars, activists and artists such as luciana achugar, Yoshiko Chuma, Koosil-ja, Katja Kolcio and William Johnston, offered contextual information on the ongoing crisis of nuclear waste and displacement in Fukushima. Presenting and responding speakers provided insight into the necessity and challenges of artistic response to this great loss as well as the numerous traumas of our planet.

I was fascinated to learn that the people of Fukushima, a site of Japan's neolithic culture, had preserved ancient folk and shamanic practices, a strong interest of mine.  Fukushima, impoverished and precarious, was long considered an expendable "sacrifice zone," a backwater targeted for industrialization and nuclear reactor construction.  Around 100,000 people were displaced from their homes by the disaster, and there's little hope that this area can ever be restored to normalcy.

Johnston's large photographs of Eiko dancing at affected sites in Fukushima and elsewhere filled the floor and risers at the sanctuary of St. Mark's. In the short breaks between conversation sessions, I tried to get around to see as many of these images as I could, and each one pierced my heart. As noted in the discussions, they are rigorous, exceedingly beautiful compositions but devastating to see. And they underscored what I've been learning about Eiko and her purpose--that her practice is shamanic in its resistance to and disruption of the daily current of time, in its ability to bridge apparent gaps of distance, bringing Fukushima to New York, and not just in Johnston's brilliant photographs but throughout her work in the world.

Someone described Eiko's performance as "a prophetic form of mourning" not just for Fukushima but for all the suffering that surrounds us now and the suffering that is to come. And dance artist achugar spoke of resisting "the tyranny of the [linear] arrow of time" and "the illusion of separation." Eiko, herself, spoke of how "distance becomes malleable." Collapsing distance--of time, of geography, of minds, of hearts--is her special gift with which she has bewitched and inspired us throughout A Body in Places.