Categories
asian art interviews performance&dance women in art

Sam Kim: on choreography, residencies and intuition

What kinds of projects have you been working on recently?
 
I began a new work during a residency at The MacDowell Colony (Peterborough, New Hampshire) last fall.  I just started creating content loosely, on my own body, without any set parameters.  I found that I was still thinking a lot about a piece I made in 2007, “Cult,” a duet for myself and another woman, that still had a lot to offer.  I never want to name the “aboutness” of a dance because I don’t believe that’s what the form has to offer, but there is something about a fucked-up relationship between two women who have a relationship that’s too intimate, in that work.  I wanted to return to that land because I knew there was more to mine. 

I knew I didn’t want to make a solo, so I held an audition to find performers.  This was a strange move for me, if only evident to myself.  I think it’s not the downtown dance way of doing things, but I was really interested in seeing how the field had changed, in finding some gems without established reputations.  I was interested in being very dry and pragmatic with that part of the process.

Next came a residency in the spring at Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), which was a compact and intense work period with the three women I hired.  So, whatever I had started conceptually at MacDowell had snapped to in the form of a trio.  I’ve taken note that the way I work with myself is utterly divorced from the way I work with other performers, so in that sense, there’s still this other battery of ‘stuff’ that I’m only comfortable putting on myself for now.  I’m not sure where that material goes just yet.
 
Two weeks after the BAC residency I flew out to the Bay Area to be in residence at Djerassi Djerassi is situated on a mountain on a former cattle ranch in the Bay Area, though incredibly secluded and remote.  It seduces you into thinking you have the world to yourself.  That was conducive to making my art.
 
I was alone again so I continued to make material intuitively, working with a discrete set of objects as content instigators:  bed, mirrors, wine glasses and nylons (on legs and to cover the face) to build the choreography.  I responded to these objects as talismans as I moved through an improvisational score based on incanting.
 
What do you say about the themes you have been working on during the past year? 
 
I’m finally acknowledging to myself that I am fundamentally interested in women: women’s bodies in the form of dance.  Women are mysterious to me, maybe at their most compelling in relationship to each other.  I’m just drawn to strange and powerful and frightening relationships between women.  There are a slew of films that come to mind as touchstones in their treatments of strange relationships between women: “3 Women,” “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,” Breillat’s “Bluebeard,” “Mulholland Drive.”
 
I’m also drawn to the nature of ritual–what it means to enact certain rites, to supplicate, to reveal something intimate that’s not intended for anyone else’s eyes. 
 
You are a conceptual choreographer, how did your thinking shift, in relation to your artistic development, how about your identity?
 
I’ve always understood, fundamentally, for me, that dances hang on form.  But as I grow older and my eye gets sharper, I actually put that more and more into practice as opposed to getting hung up on any specific content, or getting really militant about execution.  It’s all about proportion with the fundamental elements of choreography:  time, space and bodies.  And how I organize these things with and against one another, undermine the content, etc.  I value ideas first and foremost, and then rigor in the execution of those ideas.  I am not engaged with issues about idealized and beautiful bodies in dance.
 
Name your most important influences in the dance field?  How about other influences, and mentors?
 
When I was 19 or 20 I saw Pina Bausch’s work for the first time at BAM.  Not to sound overly dramatic, but it changed my life.  My sense of what was possible in dance and art just exploded in magnitude.  Merce CunninghamRoseAnne SpradlinTere O’Connor.  Visual art, fashion, music, literature.  Always film.
 
I don’t know if I rely so heavily on what I see in dance.  What seems to be more instructive and inspiring for me is to see how artists in other forms solve problems relative to their forms.

 

What visions do you have for the future, how do you see other activities (your board work and writing) in relation to your choreographic practice?
 
I am continuing to work on this new trio within the framework of two additional residencies in NYC (I’m not at liberty to say what they are at this time) that will take place over the next two years.  They are completely process-oriented, however, there will be showings.
 
As much as I resist it, writing about what I’m doing can help clarify to myself what I’m doing.  I can actually learn something.  Writing about making dances tortures me, but I secretly enjoy the torture, too, because it is a concomitant, compositional act to choreographing.  You organize information and you try to make the best choices to express what you want.  It makes me a better thinker, and hence, a better artist.
 
I’m no longer on the board of DTW since it’s now NYLA and a completely different organization altogether.  I’ve never had a feel for any kind of activity that can become the least bit bureaucratic.  I can be an insanely stubborn purist, so what feeds my choreography is entirely separate from any organizational activity.
 
Do you want to say something about the NYC dance scene?

It’s getting interesting.
 
Categories
design scandinavian women in art

Designer Mari Isopahkala // fresh whirlwind from the Milan Design Week

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: COULD YOU TELL A GREAT STORY FROM MILAN, AN ENCOUNTER, HOW WAS IT LIKE THIS TIME?
Mari Isopahkala: It was overall a great trip, although these design exhibition weeks are sometimes heavy. Meeting different people and professionals is very interesting and gives you back a lot. As I had to be standing a lot, and walk around long distances between the exhibit places, I kept changing my shoes to feel more comfortable. I got few great contacts. It will be exiting to see what these new things will bring me in the near future.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU ATTENDED MILAN DESIGN WEEK?

Mari Isopahkala: Many times, I have not even counted. Not every single year during my active working years, but almost. It is already a very familiar place to me.
 
 
(Designer Mari Isopahkala with a ruffle carpet, 2009. Capture: Liisa Valonen. Above: Kristallit small glasses, Konkkaronkka cutlery for Marimekko, designed by Mari Isopahkala)
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: WHEN YOU WERE IN NEW YORK TWO YEARS AGO, WHAT DID THE CITY OFFER?

Mari Isopahkala: It was good to see what the industry is like in North America. What are the current trends there, who are participating in those trends, and so forth. New York City is definitely quite different from the North Europe. Commercialism and business are in a higher level in the North American marketplace. What I can say about Finland is that we tend to be not so good in selling and marketing. I still have so much to learn about it, and even about how to brand my products. What I admired in New York City was the openness of people, how they have positive energy and courage. They also seemed to be forward thinking.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your design-language is very poetic, and perhaps minimalistic (or is this a stereotypy that is often attached to Scandinavian design?). In any event, how would you describe your designing?

Mari Isopahkala: Thank you, poetic is very beautifully put. Well, I would not consider minimalism as a stereotypical thing in the Nordic design. I think that minimalism comes so naturally. We are living that type of lifestyle, and it shows in the designs, which is unpretentious. This notion contains our products and our environment. I would describe my own design-language as clear, and yet personal. It does not shout too loud, yet it does not leave you cold. I hope that my designs are attractive as well. My products have some Ostrobothnian (Finnish) femininity in them. They comply strength, and also sensitivity.  

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: It is simply amazing that you are so diverse as a designer, you have interior design, jewellery, everyday objects, unique industrial design pieces, lighting design, and so on. Is there a design, which is closer to you personally and why?  

Mari Isopahkala: Yes, I like to do different things. It keeps my mind open and fresh, and very much helps to discover new things. When I look at the ideas from outside, I have to learn new things. This creates newness and innovation. I enjoy working together with skilled craftsmen from different industries. I have a huge respect for artisan’s skills.  If I had to pick one material, it would be glass. I am so intrigued by the practice in glass factories. It is hypnotic to watch the melting glass. It feels almost sensational.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can you name a few of your mentors and inspirations, Finnish and international? 

Mari Isopahkala: I have many inspirations in art, design, and in the everyday life. I have not been following anyone’s path really, but I have been gaining inspiration from many great masters in the past and in the present. The environment where I live inspires me tremendously.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you describe the essence of nature in your designs, the Finnish nature-urban dynamics? What comes to mind also is the Nordic nature with mythological traces, how it can be present in our consciousness. Is there room for utopia in your designs?

Mari Isopahkala: Nature is so important part of my life and that way it probably shows in my designs. It is not an absolute value but it is present. I have tried also other ‘domains’, and any kinds of oppositions interest me. I think I question existing myths in a good way. There is of course room for utopias in my designs. I have a need to move things forward towards the unknown paths.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Can design be masculine and feminine?

Mari Isopahkala: Good designer can utilize both, and then be without specificity of these qualities. Doing feminine or masculine design can be a conscious choice. I am very aware of my own choices. And I have used both of these two qualities. So I am trying my best.    

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are your future plans?  

Mari Isopahkala: There are many things, some of the plans are still in the air, so to speak, some on the other hand are in the process. Right now I have worked so hard that its time to start planning the summer. I believe that once you get some rest you gain new perspectives. Then it is also time to make next big decisions. 
1. greenhouse light, 2. viikari light in space, 3. viikari basis, 4. no jaa big sculpted light
5. furing jewellery, 6. winter pearl jewellery, 7. suma fiilis jewellery set,  8. kristallit fat glass
Categories
art review&curating fine and contemporary art sustainability volta art fair women in art

VOLTA NY-13 edition #1 LYNN ALDRICH

VOLTA NY’s 13 art fair is running for the sixth year in a row. The art fair celebrates a brand new location in SoHo’s vibrant 82 Mercer Street. I visited VOLTA during its opening day on Thursday March 7th (until March 10th). Spending time next to the colorful, innovative, thoughtful, provocative, and utterly timely international platform of contemporary art was worth every minute. The two floors packed with art, which were made with diverse techniques and means, and meeting people from around the world, who were enthusiastic about it, did not even feel a bit too much. Also, it was refreshing to stop for a moment, to look out from the large windows and enjoy the street scene, whilst being inside experiencing art. After looking out, I could again discover something new.

 

lynn-aldrich-out-of-the-ink-in-the-dark-2012
Lynn Aldrich, Out of Ink in the Dark, 2012, ink, ink pads, cartridges, blotting paper, carbon paper, 27 x 20 x 4 in

 

My first story from the show is about Lynn Aldrich. Los-Angeles based artist Lynn Aldrichs exhibit at VOLTA takes place at the same time as her solo show is at the JENKINS JOHNSON GALLERY in New York. This show called Free Refill: Old & New Works opened on February 7th and is now on display through March 30, 2013. Lynn Aldrich’s creativity is truly on display of her sculptures and installations that show huge potential to the acute topic of environmental change with social relevance. Aldrich’s aesthetic, carefully made almost minimalist works state a question about our excessive consumption and our man-made impact/problem on the environment. Lynn Aldrich uses materials that are part of our everyday collectables from the Home Depot store, for example. Her sculptures and installations contain parts, which, if gathered excessively, lead to problems with waste and garbage. The plastic accumulating in the ocean is one such problem. Her use of bold or natural pastel-like colors melt in with vivid and organic forms, which together create ideas of technological interplays between humans, their sciences and innovations, and the natural environment. What I especially like is that the sculptures evoke clear sensorial responses. The Sky Light (Noon) sculpture, (no. 1 here), radiates turquoise light and invites to be in-contact-with itself. The sculptures also showcase authoritative presence. A work on the wall, Out of Ink in the Dark, 2012, (no. 2 here), possesses loudness and command reminiscing of the devices that have taken so much space in our everyday communication. Plastic Pacific, 2010, (no.3 here) articulates with its title about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and echoes about the human imprint on the natural ecosystem. The plastic tubes with oil glaze represent clearly the unnecessary amount of things that we have gotten used to, and have access to. By using everyday objects from Home Depot world, such as hoses, pipes and sponges, Aldrich states their physical functions. Alternatively, she references with the objects, that they represent the water flow of the ocean or the cleaning of the ocean. The works are asking us to pay attention to and listen to its fragile system, and asking us to do something about it. The Desert Springs, 2005-2009, (no. 4 here), with downspouts and gutter extensions, is an installation in which the organic nature-like looking particles are like the Coral in the ocean.


Lynn Aldrich, Plastic Pacific, 2010, garden hoses, plastic tubes with oil glaze, brass ends on wood panel, 26 x 32 x 3 in
Lynn Aldrich, Desert Springs, 2005-2009, downspouts, gutter extensions, gutter corners, enamel, dimensions variable ~ 59 x 70 x 62 in
Categories
art education&management interviews performance&dance scandinavian women in art

Minna Tervamäki and a new contemporary ballet

Minna Tervamäki, a former principal dancer from the Finnish National Ballet, is heading to a full-fledged freelance career as a choreographer and producer. This dancer étoile discusses about her current work as a multiple entrepreneur in the field of contemporary ballet. Her new premiere together with Compañía Kaari Martin and Kare Länsivuori opens at the Savoy Theatre in Helsinki on October 17, 2012.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The idea for interviewing you goes back to 2005, when you were rehearsing for your choreographic premiere “Something Else?”. This work was designed for three women dancers yourself including. You received very positive response when you hosted and produced your own evening presenting different choreographers. Would you describe how that influenced your later decisions to pursue your own productions?

Minna: That was a turning moment. I had been sketching to my desk drawer (metaphorically) for years, but I lacked the courage, which was needed to do it. All of a sudden, I just decided to take a full dance evening into production by myself, literally producing it too. Now, after I have more experience I’m only wondering how could I do it then, where did I get the courage after all to take care of the big production without previous experience. Then again, that is what usually happens, we grow together with our task, with the projects. And I had an amazing group of people to work with me who were so helpful. I had also decided that I wanted to express my artistic view to include the lobby of the Opera House. The Alminsali stage cafe and lobby were designed with certain colors and with candles. During intermission there was a saxophone player tuning, and on the walls we had an exhibition of the photography that displayed the performance works. The entire evening was carefully thought through. What I had in mind was to include women dancers and artists, who were strong and charismatic.

I feel that everything I have done; doing choreography, directing and so forth, has so greatly influenced my own dancing, it has been a positive experience. It has helped me to get oriented to other kinds of processes in my life. Right now, I look at the new productions as a whole, not just from my own perspective. Every work has given me ingredients for my own choreography and direction.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: At the moment you are preparing for a new premiere, which opens in Helsinki on October 17. What are you staging for the evening?

Minna: This evening will be my second collaboration with the Finnish flamenco company Compañía Kaari Martin. It is an evening by Tervamäki-Martin. Kaari will be dancing her amazing contemporary flamenco solo “Korppi ja kello” (“The Raven”). I will include first, my solo “SE2”, which is based on the idea that was born in 2005. “SE2” means “Something Else 2”, so the idea has developed further from the piece that I originally created.  What remains the same each time as a main theme of my solo, is that I use my huge and massive skirt structure as part of the dance. The skirt is a design made of an iron and crinoline, and it influences the movement, and how my body appears on the stage.

Janne Mikkilä
{Kaari Martin, Minna Tervamäki and Kare Länsivuori in their new premiere. Photo: Janne Mikkilä}

The main program of our evening is my new duet that I composed for myself and ballet dancer Kare Länsivuori. The duet is called “Koti/Home”. Our three works will premiere together at the Savoy theatre in Helsinki on October 17, 2012. In March 2013, I will premiere a new work called “Yksiö/Studio”, which is a continuation of the theme introduced in “Koti/Home”. It will be performed at the Aleksander Theatre in Helsinki.

The themes in my current projects Koti/Home and Yksiö/Studio are about building structures of our lives.  The works question how can we do this together and alone?  How do we define ourselves in our relationships, and are we alone? What is the role of the community in all of this? The everyday life skips over the sometimes rough and edgy parts.  These issues are also hidden behind the facades. In my mind, our society is too individualistic, and it leaves us alone too often with our struggles and questions.

My colleague Kare Länsivuori and I both want to create works that are touching the lives of our own generation and our age groups. We want to invite new, younger adult audiences to view the contemporary ballet, which has timely and challenging topics, and great storytelling. Then we use diverse venues for these performances.

Koti/Home is investigating an important topic of what it means to be in a relationship, and what constructs the every-day life in it. The duet between Minna Tervamäki and Kare Länsivuori builds up characters, who are mimicking the contemporary life. It also questions how to keep up the facade that we have to built to protect our private lives.  Like each of us today, professionals that have high public pressure lives need to built facades to protect their private life.  When changes happen, what is evident is that one survives when life is not structured around the success only.

“Yksiö/Studio” will handle a theme of modern loneliness, and the division between the private and the public. The work investigates the life in the city, where the neighbors are physically near each other, and yet people are often total strangers to each other. There is an unwritten law that people do not interfere in each others’ lives, and will stay more or less distant. The set-design in the choreography will include two apartments, and the stage will be divided into two spatial areas. There will be a wall between these areas: audience sees this contrast between the two dwellers, two dancers, each in their own apartment. However, the dancers don’t see each other.  Also the dancers will be improvising some of the material, which is adding an comical element for the work.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: I am so thrilled by your collaboration with the Compañía Kaari Martin. Tell me about this collaboration, how do ballet and your dancing meet flamenco and its movements? It sounds truly innovative, and I believe it is not really performed much in the world?

Minna: Yes, Kaari is a representative of a contemporary flamenco. And I am thinking about the contemporary ballet from the similar point of view.  I think that our techniques are based on our traditions very strongly, and we have found our own styles and interpretations inside of these traditions. Personally, I have worked with so many choreographers that their methods have obviously influenced my own movement interpretation. When I started to collaborate with Kaari Martin, I immediately noticed her amazing movement vocabulary that she created with her hands, how she was expressing with her hands. At times, it looked as if she was having the ‘swan hands’; she has a ballet training background, and she is using it. In Spain, for instance, the most well-known flamenco-dancers have a strong ballet training.  When I work together with Kaari, I am probably most impressed by her musicality, the exactness that comes with the musical rhythm, and how she lives in the musical moment. She is definitely as much a musician as she is a dancer.  I wanted to bring this same concept to the ballet world, because we too often focus on the technicality of the dancing. In the end, I believe, that all the dance genres are intermingling and creating fusions in the course of the time, as dancers deploy similar methods and the ways to move.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Since you come from being a well-known principal dancer in a major opera house, the Finnish National Ballet Company, you have a prominent career behind you. Yet, you are facing changes right now, as you are pursuing a free lancer career. I am convinced that the changes you are going through have been coming to you gradually. Where do you see yourself today, and what are the current questions that you have today in your career?

Minna: IT IS EXACTLY HOW YOU SAY IT, THE CHANGE HAS BEEN GRADUAL. IN FACT I AM PROUD OF IT, AS I FEEL I HAVE MYSELF CHOREOGRAPHED THE CHANGE. I STARTED TO CREATE DIFFERENT PRODUCTIONS QUITE EARLY, OR JUST IN TIME. THE EXPERIENCES WITH THE PROJECTS OUTSIDE THE OPERA HOUSE HAVE BEEN SO VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT. ALSO I HAVE COLLABORATED CLOSELY WITH OTHER CHOREOGRAPHERS WITH DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS, WHICH IMMENSELY HELPED ME TO GAIN COURAGE TO WORK WITH MY OWN PROJECTS.

In addition, I started my own firm in 2005, which includes creating dance productions, and lecturing for the business venues, companies and non-profit organizations. I tailor dance performances to these as well, and of course, teach dance courses and workshops. I decided to get training in some relaxation techniques, because I believe that the techniques that work with images and mind are a comprehensive way to take our inner and mental resources into full utilization. Almost by accident, there was suddenly a class called “Minna Tervamäki methods”, which gradually works with our body-placement, making our bodies stronger and more sustainable.

I have tried to be so open as a person that I have basically mixed everything that I have learned during my career. This includes Pilates, ingredients from different yoga traditions, from diverse dance styles,  gyrokinesis and Susan Klein technique. I have learned methods from many physiotherapists, since I have had injuries during my long career. My knowledge includes how to recover from those.  I gained a lot from my training in New York in the past years.

As we all know, the biggest question in our freelancer field is the money. I have so many ideas and creativity, but as everybody in the industry knows, nothing can really happen without thinking seriously how to fund the project. I think that it is more and more the challenge of today; when there are more freelancers and enterpreneurs out there, the money gets tighter too.  What I also reflect sometimes in my mind, is the audience: where does the audience come from? Even when there are so many amazing projects out there, the local audiences here in the greater Helsinki area are still quite limited. We are not a world metropolis like New York.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are your plans and dreams for the future?

Minna: I feel that I am living a wonderful time in my life. My body is still in top condition, and I can enjoy dancing. At the same time, I am finally in the phase of my life, when I have a freedom to choose my own working rhythm, meaning when to work, and who should I collaborate with. I can basically structure my own calendar, after 28 years in a big ballet institution, this is absolutely a welcomed change.  At this moment, I am exited to have my first speaking role as well, I will be the narrator in Kenneth Greve’s new ballet “The Snow Queen”.

Esa Kyyrö
{Minna Tervamäki  as Dying Swan, The Finnish National Ballet. Photo: Esa Kyyrö}

Artist webpages:

Minna Tervamäki: (www.minnatervamaki.com/)

Compañía Kaari Martin: (www.companiakaarimartin.fi)

Categories
asian art fine and contemporary art interviews women in art

Artist Nozomi Rose: Dai Dai

Nozomi Rose is a rocking Japanese woman artist, who has a lot to say about the women’s role in the fine arts. From traditional Japanese Nihonga to Western artistic techniques, she uses fingernails to add dimension to the paintings. She was trained in painting at Cornell University and earned an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The focus for our discussion is on diversity of artistic practices. We listen to her plans from organizing a conference in New York City, where artists and scholars who have more than one practice get to present their work and share knowledge on how one discipline informs the other. She is publishing an e-book in Japanese on hybrid art teaching and learning for Tatsu-zine Publishing. Her exhibition ‘Dai Dai’ will open in New York at Japanese Embassy on October 2nd. This exhibition will feature her latest paintings of multiple techniques, along with her other works.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: We had a discussion about patriarchal Japanese art-institution, could you explain that a bit?

NR: Haha. Are we really starting out our interview with this question? I was talking about the wife of Ikuo Hirayama, one of the most important Nihonga painters in Japan. Ikuo Hirayama is a Hiroshima-A bomb survivor, served as the President of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (a.k.a Geidai) twice, and a synonym for Nihonga, so I would say he is a Japanese version of Jackson Pollock. Well, sort of…Hirayama paints landscape and is known for Silk Road paintings. Everyone in Japanese art knows his name. His wife Michiko Hirayama entered the same university with Ikuo and was the top of their class. Ikuo was the second. Michiko, however, gave up on her painting career when they got married because their best man told her that having two painters in one household would not work. Michiko took the advice and stopped painting, and then, Ikuo truly climbed to the top of the field. It sounds similar to Lee Krasner now I think about it. There is a Japanese idiom “breaking one’s brush,” which typically means “stop writing stories,” but Japanese painters see that the words symbolize a female painter’s marriage with a male painter in Nihonga. Michiko’s episode is an urban folklore among Japanese painters worldwide. I heard this story for the first time when I was studying painting in Paris, France!

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are using both western means of creating art and Japanese traditional Nihonga in your art, how naturally this came about to you as an artist and when?

NR: Oh, you mean, I use Nihonga paints with acrylic medium on canvas and you see it as unusual? That is a very good point. The fact is that, though, many Japanese painters trained in Nihonga use this method in New York. Also, Nihonga pigments are heavy because their particles are much larger than western pigments, so I can’t really use gum arabic for this, like you do in watercolor. I can’t mix it with oil painting medium because oil paints cure through oxidation, and oxidation changes the colors in Nihonga pigments. These are scientific sides of why and how it came to me. The technical diversity creates the differences in visual effects in western and Japanese paintings. I am curious to see how Nihonga paints react to various western painting mediums in my work. I might try it with oil paints at a later time. I have increasingly been attracted to casual ways of making paintings, so the color change may be okay for certain types of work that I will create in the near future.

You may be asking me about the conceptual side of the work. For me, using Nihonga paints is one way of “citing” Japan in my work, but this is not the main theme I promote in art. Personally, making art has more to do with erasing my own identity as Japanese rather than emphasizing it. I was told at an early stage of my artistic career that I should stay away from quoting Japanese art materials or Japanese visual languages for my own work because they can never make my art original. For example, I can never be unique by copying Ukiyo-e patterns as art because many people have seen those. I have never trained in Nihonga; learning Japanese traditional painting never attracted me. When I was still in Japan, I was studying oil painting; I liked Japanese oil painters such as Ryuzaburo Umehara who studied with Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I enjoyed seeing the world through the lens of Japanese artists influenced by the western aesthetics.

I also liked the works by westerners influenced by the Japanese aesthetics. This included Impressionists and conceptual artists like Daniel Buren, so I went to Paris in 1999. I even went to Monet’s house in Giverny, but you know…he had a strong collection of Japanese woodcut prints and that was the secret! It was a bit unfair that I had to travel all the way from Japan to France only to witness that Claude Monet was a big fan of Japanese art. Daniel Buren, on the other hand, might not be familiar with Japan although his work looks very Japanese, especially the installations with color stripes.

Do you know there was no art in Japan until Ernest Fenollosa came and made it happen with Okakura Tenshin, who established Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and was a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston? Okakura Tenshin was Fenollosa’s assistant and both of them worked for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. People who say that the Japanese Constitution was written by the United States would probably claim that Americans created Japanese art, but I am not a historian.

So my short answer is that it has always been on my mind. However, inserting something very Japanese directly into my own artwork, which I have long been resisted, came to me only when the Japan Tsunami Earthquake Disaster happened.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The collaboration between Fenollosa and Tenshin is very moving, and kind of tells us how the world of artists has always been connected.  Do you feel you are mediating between East and West with your art, or do you think that it is stereotypical to make this opposition?

NR: As a visual artist, color is my “language.” I would like color to mediate between east and west in my work, so my answer is yes and I feel there is no way for me to escape this. I am certainly interested in mediating between Japanese and American visual effects and aesthetics. Japanese art has borrowed elements from Indian and Chinese art, so it is the idea of East. I think the question is more about “how” I am doing it. I am watching how my art can mediate both east and west.

(Courtesy of A. Sortie, Inc. Nozomi Rose, ‘Happening’, 2012. oil on canvas. 8″ x 10″)

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You participated in the Japan’s Earthquake and TsunamI 2011 art-project, could you tell me more about it?

NR: I was an organizer for Silent Art Auction and a curator for Charity Art Exhibition, but they were both student-driven projects. Our students learned a lot by carrying out those charity art events. I was just a tool for them to communicate with the College and Japan. Students who wanted to show and sell their art for their fundraisers, first on campus and then in a Chelsea art gallery, got together, and through myself, they were able to even have a commercial gallery owner donate his space for one day, for free.

We see those activities as our students’ educational experiences as well as healing processes. As a result, affected students successfully survived the crisis and graduated. I just presented on this theme with two other Professors, Kyoko Toyama in College Discovery/Counseling and Tomonori Nagano in Education and Language Acquisition, at the Opening Session at LaGuardia Community College: (For more details, look the website: http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/Opening-Sessions/Workshops-II/)

Our College President Dr. Gail O. Mellow has been sympathetic about what Japanese students went through due to the unfortunate disaster, so she briefly came to our presentation. I felt her attendance symbolized a kind gesture by the College to the affected population in Japan.

The title of our paper is “Respecting Tradition and Creating a Community: Culturally Appropriate Response to the needs of Japanese Students and the College in the aftermath of Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami.” We previously presented the same research in a session under the same title at the 2011 Asian American Psychological Association Conference in Washington D. C.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Then, I am always curious what an artist like you holds for their future. I guess it is about the dreams, what are your dreams and future plans?

NR: Wow, this is an interesting question. My dreams:

1) Sending 1000 young women from the disaster areas of Japan to New York City to study visual arts at LaGuardia Community College. This can be for three months or longer like two years. They do not need to be all Japanese citizens and I believe this is the right way for us to start spending more money on women’s education. This art project is after “Fairytale” by Ai Weiwei. Please let me know if you know anyone who would be interested in funding this project!

2) Creating a visiting East Asia artists and curators’ lecture series where people from various East Asia countries peacefully collaborate. After 3/11, my school suggested me to create an East Asia art course, so I wrote and proposed HUA191: the Art of Eastern Asia. It is now part of the College’s official course offerings. We are currently developing a new East Asia/ Japanese major, in collaboration with Queens College, so the new East Asia art course is becoming a permanent addition to the major. This is a bold step for diversity in the arts of Long Island City, Queens/ NYC. The next logical step would be an art lecture series with the same theme.

Future plans

1) To film “Dai Dai.” The title of my exhibition came from a film project that I started in 2010 entitled, “Orange.” Daidai is a Japanese word for one specific shade of orange, whose sound also connotes the concept of genealogy. The film content was mainly about my personal experience with the color orange, the largest earthquake in Japan, which was the Kobe earthquake before 3/11, and the sarin gas attack on Tokyo Subway system. I think production of a contemporary Japanese folklore was my initial purpose of this project. The tsunami earthquake was literally a life altering experience for me as an artist in part because it forced me to stop writing this script, but I recently decided to re-start it by re-structuring the entire work.

2) Swan Hill Art Biennale. I am helping the Swan Hill Museum of Contemporary Art in Himeji, Japan, to create an art biennale. Himeji literally means “Princess Road.” It currently promotes art made by women and I want to eventually include transgender women. For that, I think the conservative region needs a good woman’s medical center. We want a feminist art “museum-medical center,” so I will start talking to artists and doctors who may be interested in this type of project. This can sound very different from what I have done in the past, but I think the fundraisers for Japan last year were really about helping to raise funds for medical treatments.

3) Interdisciplinary Art Practices Conference in NYC. I am planning to organize a conference where artists and scholars who have more than one practice present their work and discuss how one discipline informs another one in their own practice.

4) E-Publication. I am writing an e-book for Tatsu-zine Publishing (http://tatsu-zine.com/) in Tokyo, Japan. This will probably be about Art-in-NY for non-majors and online art learning tools because this Japanese publisher specializes in e-books for computer programmers.

(Courtesy of A. Sortie, Inc. Nozomi Rose, ‘One Summer Dream’, 2012. oil on unstretched linen)

The artist’s website: http://nozomirose.com/

Information about the upcoming ‘Dai Dai’ -exhibition: Opening Reception: Thursday, Oct. 4th, 2012. 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m, Discussion with the artist: Friday, October 5th, 2012, at 1:00 p.m.

http://www.ny.us.emb-japan.go.jp/en/i2/special_2012-10-02–31_DaiDaiExibition.html Opening

  • (Daidai is a fruit)
Categories
music performance&dance women in art

Susanna Leinonen’s ‘Disturbed Silence’

There is a silence, which is about noise. There is a silence, which leaves only little possibility to run away from its scrutinizing notice. Could it be like the first silence on the earth, or something that one finds in deserted places and in the wilderness? An almost “absolute silence of the world’s dawning. In such suspension, before every utterance on earth, there is a cloud, an almost immobile air” (Luce Irigaray 2001, 3).

Can one find a place in silence? Aristotle’s Physics (IV) states: The proof of place is in transformation of elements in place. So if the place is found in silence, something must occur, or change. Silence must be disturbed so the existence of a place is proofed.

When I approach someone’s creative work, I ask myself a few questions. First, I think that many times the core elements in creation are similar. Second, there are couple of things that need to be considered:

  • What is the collegial bases
  • What are the experiences, similarities/differences gained
  • How is the knowledge, and the fields of expertise shared

As an art maker, I often end up writing about the art from the perspective of experience, craft and the knowledge. How does the work speak to me as audience member is equally important. This has value not only as a platform where different approaches and experiences can meet, but it offers space to a more in-depth discovery. When I look at a dance work, for example, I pay attention to the following:

  1. How the event is “full” /what are the elements?
  2. How do I experience it?
  3. How are the movements familiar/strange to me?
  4. After seeing a performance, how do I memorize its moments, which parts do I feel as pleasant or repulsive, and with fear or joy?

As each art work also has a distinctive global origin, the aesthetics and movement structures, affects relating to crafting, selecting contents and editing vary. The reflection and interpretation is then a next step. For example, dance works are based on dance, but often music, lighting design, and costume accompany the movement.

In what follows, I reflect Susanna Leinonen’s choreography ‘Disturbed Silence’. The work had its premiere in 2004 at the Stoa Cultural Centre in Helsinki. Susanna Leinonen Company was founded by Finnish choreographer Susanna Leinonen in 2001. Today the company is at the cutting edge of Finnish dance. Besides choreographing for her own dance company, Leinonen collaborates with other companies. Her works have appeared in 18 countries. In 2012-2014, Susanna Leinonen Company is in residence at the Stoa Cultural Center of Eastern Helsinki. The vision is to bring broader audiences closer to contemporary dance and to help it to know the genre better. Stoa will also be a platform for international groups and visiting artists.

Experiencing ‘Disturbed Silence’ in the audience

Lighting designer Mikki Kunttu has created effective blackouts with the use of complete darkness. His strong diagonals descend from high angles. The use of effects like removal of the usual sidelights, so that the dancers have no gaps where to hide or disappear, organizes the palette. Dancers have to stay still,  move, and be still again. Lights turn on breaking in, then they are off again. Suddenly, white lights infuse on the black carpet creating holes in the surface. There is a white tulle suspended in the back together with an extra assembly of lights. This is adding more depth and width on stage building an ambiance of a depth space. Lights are resting on the dancers. Music disturbs their entire being, and electrifies the stage as a stretched screen. Movements are full of little nuances and gestures. The artistic whole is refined and there is no visible chaos or disorder.

Kunttu’s style reminisce archaeology of space creating contrasting images and extensions to the space. The lighting is cutting, framing and penetrating space making the bodies either loom or fade away. The black box stage becomes visually something else. His lighting design shapes a new kind of architecture for dance, pushing back elaborate set designs. Lighting becomes the stage, an environment and a mood, in which the bodies are sculptured as full and ghostlike.

 

As it comes to musical composition by Kasperi Laine, the packed sounds change the mood unexpectedly promising about an intensity of a water pipe, which breaks open. A scene comes to a sudden closing as if being subsequent to freezing water. The brutal sounds disturb an illusion of microscopically significant silences, as each of the five dancers make their decision to move, to curve, to stand, to stare, or optionally being deserted from others with long lasting silences. The dancers re-enter in coalition to breathe together for a short momentum. ‘Disturbed Silence’ almost possess the dancing bodies with stiff tones. The blazer-jacket costumes designed by Erika Turunen look like extensions to movements and angles. When they are pulled out of the waist they erect the dancers’ bodies in contractions.

The music composition feels like it is creating a long corridor in the darkness. The sounds “come-in” unexpectedly behind the doors in the corridor. The sound is pressing the air around the dancers, promising of something, then it disappears again. What I testify visually is that dancers also time to time break away from their essential human figures. This becomes evident when they leave standing or any kind of clean “posture-like-posture” . The movements play with the skeletal of the body. Their bodies twist and tease the sacral into new alternative displacements. The air around movement contractions seems to get packed closer to their veins, making breathing look exhausted.

Susanna Leinonen’s choreography is aesthetically minimalistic. In the undercurrent she is weaving friction with the bodies that twist in odd walks and in the bursting stills. The rhythm of the piece comes with the dancing bodies and with the music that almost mimics the actions.The entire design shows how the process of weaving has become complete. The parts come together to make a whole.

When I reflect ‘Disturbed Silence’, I realize that contemporary dance art portrays its time in a powerful way. Dance can carry embodiments of contemporary experiences, speak about urbanization, chaos, alienation from nature, and about the lack of human caring. Choreography is not only “presenting” ideas but, it can show them in a powerful way through the dancing bodies.  Contemporary dance can be part of global culture. Many local and national companies have become global. As Susanna Leinonen Company is touring, its program approaches global audience that is varying. Contemporary dance becomes global culture creating content like fashion, visual arts, design, theater, film, music, and architecture. All these fields are close to dance. Then, creating content in a global space makes dance become closer with technologies. Dances do not exactly follow the patterns of making contents for mobile phones, but they carry contents, which do not “naturally” grow in our traditional conception of dance; videos and digital technologies, etc., are part of the scene.

{photos: Heikki Tuuli.}

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more information about the company, vistit www.susannaleinonen.com

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References:

Irigaray, Luce. To Be Two. Routledge: New York, 2001.

Time for Aristotle. Physics IV. 10-14. Oxford Aristotle Studies. Oxford University press, 2005.