Festival of Japanese Experimental Music and Performance


Concert Review by Zachàr Laskewicz


Stichting Logos

‘The Logos Foundation’


November 1992

(Ghent, Belgium)


November 3: 

Tari Ito and Chie Mukai


This concert was divided into two contrasting sections, each taken by one of the performers involved.  The first section was a performance of a particularly individual kind of performance art, and the second was a musical performance by a Japanese woman on a Chinese instrument (the Kukyo), with voice.  I found the first half most interesting in this concert because I had more of a chance to talk with the artist about her work.  It was totally non-representational theatre, involving the very physical characteristic of space.  Her work explores the very unseen act of creation - the body as it reproduces continually its cells.  The title “The Memory of The Epidermis” is certainly explanatory of this aspect.  The Epidermis which has repeated the process of the birth and death of cells every day through a genetic “memory” brings to us a process that we cannot feel because we live in a world of outward stimuli.  Tari Ito feels that the skin is a translator of the “inward impulse” to explore this element within ourselves, and her performance work produces a rather unique way of exploring this:  The day before the performance Tari covers the performance space with latex (painted down layer by layer).  When it dries, she uses this as a basis for her performance:  Moving underneath it, covering other external objects with it.  It certainly brings out both the physical and intimate nature of these inward processes.  Our performance included blowing up body sacs on her body, removing latex layers both from the floor and from a chair, incorporating every-day objects such as bottles into the performance, but using only their latex ‘skin’ which gives a part of the performance a highly sexual nature.  Tari Ito has studied at a French mime school in Japan, although was first studying fine arts and painting.  This helps to explain the abstract and graphic elements within the performance, stemming from an interest in contours and textures.  The performance was accompanied with a series of abstract slides.


November 4: 

Kazakura Sho and Ishii Mitsutaka

Performance and Butoh dance


An interesting concert divided into two contrasting parts, each a separate performance event for the two performers.  In the first half Kazakura performed inside a large black, mostly inflated, rubber ball that rolled slowly around the stage during the forty minute performance.  The performance held some interesting factors,the first being the pure fascination in experiencing such an event.  The effect of the large rubber ball was really quite powerful, subverting notions of reality for a brief moment.  Especially effective was when the rubber ball very slowly picked up a piano stool, consumed it, and then moved it to another position on the stage.  Many times during the performance one lost the notion that it was a man inside a ball, but the ball became an amorphous mass with life of its own.  Particularly interesting was also when the performer climbed the blue pole of the tetrahedron.  The ball became deflated towards the end of the performance, and then seemed to give birth to a large red sheet.  finally the performance was symbolically ended when the ball was totally deflated and the performer dragged himself out from inside the remains, certainly reminiscent of some sort of birth ritual.  The performance was treated with typical Japanese seriousness, but I'm afraid I couldn’t help finding a comic element with this “blob,” reminding me first of B-grade horror movies.

The second half of the concert was certainly a contrast to the first, and for me was both educational and a disappointment.  It was a disappointment because it did not live up to my expectations of Butoh dance. Through experiencing it in Australia and Moscow, I had preconceived ideas about how it should work:  Primordial energies represented by sparse sounds and lighting and performers with restrained but violent primeval energies coming from the depth of the soul, pre-language and pre-discourse, proto-energy.  However, apparently although Ishii was one of the first Butoh dancers to come out of Japan (his teacher was the originator of Butoh dance in the sixties), he feels his work has developed in a different way to Butoh, and he has taken characteristics from other forms of Japanese theatre.  Certainly, in this performance, the performers personality (largely comic) plays an important role in something which I have not previously witnessed in a Butoh performance.  In the second half, he certainly played himself off the audience, enjoying it when they found some of his antics amusing (incorporating the audience into the performance, introducing external objects, improvisation, vocal sounds).  The first half however developed in the traditional Butoh style, although the intimate nature of the performance setting and the lighting (quite bright) also took a little away from the performance possibilities.


Christophe Charles, a French man who has live in Japan for four years and has been working with experimental performance artists for a while now, accompanied both these performances by improvising with electronic sound equipment, contact microphones and delay devices. The results were quite effective, and for me resembled most closely what “Butoh” music I have heard:  Sparse and distant sounds, violent percussive bangs in the far distance followed by vague echoes.


November 5: 

Toshima Furukawa



A performance of experimental performance music by Toshima Furukawa was indeed an interesting and perhaps the most typical Japanese of all the concerts.  Toshima himself appears as quite a curious man, and his performance resembles something like a cross between sumo wrestling and avant-garde musical improvisation.  His performances were basically structured through demonstrations of his own physical prowess, where he would wrap long blue tapes around himself that were connected to different parts of the performance space, connected to contact microphones so that any sounds vibrating through the blue tapes would be picked up and significantly amplified.  The results were certainly interesting, and mostly appeared as some sort of masochistic exhibition, always involving some sort of physical activity that would result in an impression on the body.  Most interesting was the performers choice of performance spaces, resulting in the audience having to move around three different sections of the performance area. The first two sections were situated outside and in the entrance hall.  Outside on the street, Toshimasa made music using the blue tapes, but an interesting element was added to the performance through interaction with the public:  As the performer was standing in the middle of the road, drivers had to turn around or reverse.  The second act had another interesting element, with the performer setting out a number of metronomes on the floor (about 50) and setting them off one by one creating a cacophony of rhythmic crossings.  The performance was ended by him wrapping a blue tape (hanging from the roof) around his chest, standing on a pile of bricks, and forcing himself into a rather painful looking suspension above the ground when he kicked the bricks away with his feet.  Toshimasa's performance was certainly interesting, unashamedly based on the creation of as much noise as possible in the most graphically disturbing way.