1 - S/N - March 1994, Adelaide Festival
SIGNAL / NOISE
On the stage exposed real bodies took the role of noise distorsion fighting against even more sophisticated technological stage devices. With AIDS as the center, issues such a gender, homosexuality, nationality, identity, and life and death were brought out. However they not only criticized the issue of discrimination in contempory society, but they also considered how to use this criticism as an opportunity to form an entirely new love = Communication.
This communication is rather the different intersections of the multiplicity of the media created by humans (from body language to the computer network) and it must not be transmission devices for power.
Adelaide Festival (Australia), Musée d'Art Contemporain in Montreal (Canada), King Theater Seattle (USA), Landmark Hall Yokohama (Japan), Spiral Tokyo (Japan), Festival MIT, Le Manège Mauberge (France), Esch Theatre (Luxembourg), Cankarjev Dom Ljubljana (Slovenia), Halle Münsterland / Theater im Pumpenhaus Münster (Germany), Festival Exit / Maison des Arts in Creteil (France), Kunsten Festival des Arts, Brusels (Belgium), Zürcher Theater Spektakel Zürich (Switzerland), International Performing Arts Festival of São Paolo (Brazil), Tokyo Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, International New Zealand Festival of Arts Wellington, Teatro Central Sevilla (Spain).
2 - Lovers - Teijy Furuhashai, Sept 23-Okt3, 1994 at Hillside Plaza, Tokyo, Japan
You enter an empty, square room. In the darkness, indistinct images appear on the surrounding walls. Several nude, nearly life-size men and women are walking, standing still, embracing one another. Their movements are slow and suspended, as if in a dream. Apart from the slight, almost inaudible whispers heard from time to time, there is nothing to break the silence. As your eyes adjust to the darkness you approach the walls in order to see the images better, but at that moment you are detected by sensors and a ring of words projected onto the floor around you transfixes you.
DO NOT CROSS THE LINE OR JUMP OVER ! (1)
When you look towards the wall in confusion as if to seek rescue, you will notice a new figure, also nude, moving slowly in your direction. This person who is none other than the artist himself, stops close to you and spreads both arms. Yet when you reach your hands out to him, he embraces himself and slowly falls backwards, vanishing. An aesthetics of disappearance that contains a sweet - yet incomparably cool - narcissism. Afterwards, the wordless, dream-like pantomime continues ceaselessly.
While its consists of images produced by life-size human figures, this work entitled Lovers is far removed from the concept of the living picture, or tableau vivant. It is especially removed from the most radical usage of the concept of living picture -the usage by which Pierre Klossowski described Balthus' paintings, and which could also be applied to Klossowski's own drawings. In his case "living picture", in contrast to its lateral meaning, signifies the suspension and freezing of the vital drama of life in which the human figure is led away from life's flow and placed in a world of deathless, eternal existence. In this type of living picture the human figures are fixed in boldly exaggerated, stiff poses, and the viewer senses an intensity that has been suspended in a boiling state.
Lovers is completely the opposite. Here, human figures become thin shadows, sliding and floating by, eventually disappearing without a sound. While it is a scene consisting of moving, life-size figures, it is in fact the exact opposite of a living picture, and in this sense may perhaps be termed a dying picture -tableau mourant. Yet it contains not a trace of tragedy or despair, but only a quiet affirmation of the constantly changing world, reminiscent of Epicurus or Lucretius more than anything Eastern.
One can perceive social and technological change underlying this type of opposition. In industrial society, it was possible to consider the body as the centre of resistance to mechanical systems. For precisely this reason, our theorist of living pictures sees the "phantasm of the body itself as the centre of resistance" at the basis of plastic arts (2).
In what is known as post-industrial society, however, the body has, on the one hand, achieved a global expansion through its direct connection to the web of electronic information; at the same time, it has been reduced to a surface image and has suffered the corrosion of bio-engineering and retro-viruses, thereby losing its stable boundaries and threatening to dissolve and flow outwards. In this situation, the presence of the phantasm of the body, not to mention the body itself, becomes uncertain, and the body's image, transforming itself at will -or rather, being forced to change- eventually disappears into non-existence.
May Lovers then be considered an expression of the "aesthetics of disappearance" suited to the age of information and biological science -not in this sense, however, of a hard expression of extreme speed as conceived by the creator of this phrase Paul Virilio, but rather as a slow, soft expression ? In this beautiful, almost too beautiful work should we perceive a resignation and clear vision regarding the disappearance and absence of the body -death- under the post-modern condition ? Undoubtedly, there is more.
Lovers is a work of an extremely high degree of perfection and should be evaluated in and of itself. Yet certainly I may be allowed to pursue supplementary lines in order to re-examine it from various perspectives. In truth, the creator of "Lovers", Teiji Furuhashi, was an active as the central member of the multi-media performance group dumb type, formed in 1984, and his 1994 work Lovers is closely linked to dumb type's S/N, first performed in the same year.
S/N is a highly multi-faceted performance, with the character of "work in progress" usually associated with dumb type's work, and it would be difficult for me to summarise it here. Only, by looking at the first few scenes it should be possible to infer the direction of the whole performance.
S/N, as it was first performed in Adelaide, begins with a strange scene of dialogue / translation. A man moves about on all fours while emitting unintelligible sounds. Teiji Furuhashi himself then enters as narrator and talks to this man who cannot hear -he is deaf but not dumb- and, translating his private language, explains that the man is trying to dance the tango, usually performed by a male and female couple. There is more. The label "Homosexual" is affixed to the man's clothing. Upon closer look, the narrator also has the same label. Indeed, in the course of their humorous exchange it becomes clear that the man is a "male, Japanese, deaf homosexual", the narrator, a "male, Japanese, HIV-positive homosexual", and furthermore, that they are not merely playing these roles, for this is what they are in reality. Of course, this not a rite of confession, nor what can be considered its other side, a strategy of identity politics. Rather, by taking branded identities in reverse and locating its perspective there, S/N achieves a cutting intensity that pierces through reality.
The next scene shifts to a thrilling, high-tech performance (to use already out-dated terms). The stage is divided into upper and lower levels; the lower level consists of a wall upon which four video images are projected, while on the upper level people move left and right in the narrow passageway above the wall. Overall, the space lacks depth, empasising instead serial, lateral movements. As shown by the play on words "Conspiracy of Silence / Conspiracy of Science", a cool allegory of modern scientific civilisation, which excludes anything alien while organising and categorising everything superficially, is played out through the projection of images and words and the interconnected mechanical movements of the people. As it reaches a climax, however, a different dimension is introduced. "I dream...my gender will disappear". "I dream...my nationality will disappear". A shrill female voice, or the voice of a deaf man, screams these words in agitation, even as they are rapidly blown up from the back to the front of the screen at right angles to the left-right movements. Illuminated by the flash strobe lights, the figures move like androids and insects on the passageway that has now become a precarious borderline; they then remove all their clothes, dropping down and disappearing into the back of the stage. An aesthetics of disappearance created with powerful intensity. Of course, if that were all, we could not help but take it as a post-modern desire for a dream. Yet, at certain moments -for example, the instant before the artist's image embraces himself and disappears as he falls back- they show an indefinable expression of hesitation, as if perhaps they wish to ask us something. At precisely that moment of undecidable hesitation, neither a distinct appeal or a narcissistic self-enclosure, we are able to glimpse the possibility of the exchange of love, which differs from the high-intensity intercourse of sex, and is instead infinitely close to zero -which can only communicated, for example, by an almost inaudible whisper. Thus without thinking we reach our hands out of the image of the artist, even though we know we can never reach him. Yes, Lovers, with a low, coolly restrained voice that is never more or less eloquent than the radical, diverse agitation of S/N, continues to transmit to us the message of "love".
Charles Fourier once conceptualised the dream of a "new world of love" in which all possible passions intersect while increasing their intensity without limit -a dream more radical than any subsequent vision of sexual revolution. What Klossowski, who may be considered a modern Fourierist, tried to realise in his living pictures through the phantasm of the body was nothing less than this dream. Instead of the differentiation of a love that allows for coexistence with others, however, the real world has merely brought about the uplifting of sex, which tries to make self and the other ultimately coincide, resulting in catastrophe. It is no doubt impossible to repeat the vision of a sexual utopia after the actual sexual revolution and AIDS. Rather, at a point infinitely close to zero, Lovers continues to whisper quietly its message of "love". I would like to think that the dream of a "new world of love" emerges there like an artificial flower which has survived in a state of suspended animation and now blooms in cold water.
by Akira Asada
(translated by Seiji Mizuta Lippit)
Canon Artlab - Tokyo, Japan
Marstall / Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel - Munich, Germany
Landesgalerie - Linz, Austria
Sonar 96 / advanced Music - Barcelona, Spain
Museum of Modern Art - New York, USA
Das Tat in Bockenheimer Depot - Frankfurt, Germany
Biennale de Lyon, France
Exit Festival - Creteil, France
Visa Festival - Mauberge, FranceSpiral Hall - Tokyo, Japan
Tramway - Glasgow, UK
Sendai mediatheque, Japan
opening event of the "media messages: look thru language" exhibition
Lille 2004 – European Capital of Culture, Lille - France
as part of the exhibitions Cinémas du futur - Souffleurs d’image, then The Microfolies
NTT InterCommunication Center [ICC] - Tokyo, Japan
as part of the exhibition "Possible Futures: Japanese postwar art and technology"
Kyoto Art Center, Japan
Zendai MoMA - Shanghai Museum of Modern Art, China
as part of the exhibition From Flash to Pixel (curator Richard Castelli).
// Kollektiv //
Dumb Type is based in Kyoto, Japan. Members are trained in varied disciplines, including the visual arts, architecture, music and computer programming as well as writing, acting, dance, and other forms of performing arts. Dumb Type’s work ranges across such diverse media as art exhibitions, performances, audio-visual and printed publications.
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