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Eiko Otake and Takashi Koma Otake, generally known as Eiko & Koma, are a Japanese performance duo. Since 1972, Eiko & Koma have worked as co-artistic directors, choreographers, and performers, creating a unique theater of movement out of stillness, shape, light, sound, and time. For most of their multi-disciplinary works, Eiko & Koma also create their own sets and costumes, and they are usually the sole performers in their work. Neither of them studied traditional Japanese dance or theater forms and prefer to choreograph and perform only their own works. They do not bill their work as Butoh though Eiko & Koma cite Kazuo Ohno (a Butoh pioneer) as their main inspiration.
Eiko & Koma’s iconoclastic work combines slow and nuanced movement vocabulary with bold theatrical design. Whether performing in a theater or in natural sites outdoors, Eiko & Koma often move as if they are not human. By doing so, they paradoxically evoke utterly human emotions from their viewers. Eiko & Koma’s movement and choreography often progress in a scale of time that is radically different from everyday life or other theater productions. Many critics have used the term “glacier-like” to express the progression of their movement towards something unexpected. Eiko & Koma believe that humans are a part of nature and through their work they hope for humans to remember that. Many of their works contain nudity, which emphasizes the vulnerability of humans and transforms their appearance so they do not have everyday human bodies. Eiko, when asked about this aspect of their work in an interview, is quoted as saying, “A fish is naked and stone is naked. Why not us?”
Eiko & Koma’s noted stage collaborations include Mourning, (2007, with pianist Margaret Leng Tan), Cambodian Stories: An Offering of Painting and Dance, (2006, with young artists who graduated from the Reyum Art School), Offering (2003, with the clarinetist David Krakauer), Be With (2001, with Anna Halprin and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud), When Nights Were Dark (2000, with composer Joseph Jennings and a Praise Choir), the proscenium version of River (1997, with the Kronos Quartet, who performed Somei Satoh’s commissioned score live), Wind (1993, with Chanticleer and its music director Joseph Jennings) Land (1991, with Native American flutist/composer Robert Mirabal, American visual artist Sandra Lerner), By The River (1986, with visual artist Clayton Campbell) and Fluttering Black (1979, with Glenn Branca). Both When Nights Were Dark (2000) and Mourning (2007) were chosen as the year’s ten best dance works by the New York Times.
Designed to be performed in an intimate space, Eiko & Koma’s stage work Death Poem (2005) is a meditation on dying. Cambodian Stories (2006) toured to twelve cities in the United States in the spring of 2006. Charian and Peace, the two youngest of their Cambodian collaborators, performed a restaged version Grain and collaborated with Eiko & Koma in Quartet, both seen at the American Dance Festival in 2007. Their recent work, Hunger, was co-commissioned by the Walker Art Center and the Joyce Theater for the Joyce’s 25th anniversary and premiered in the fall of 2008. The Walker Art Center also commissioned their 2010 work Naked.
In addition to performing in theaters, during the past decade Eiko & Koma have created and presented site-adaptable performance installations at dozens of sites for more than 35,000 audience members. They have performed in sites such as parks, gardens, campus greens, private land, parking lots, city plazas, lakes, ponds, and graveyards. Outdoor works are usually presented as free-admission events. River (1995) takes place in a body of moving water. Breath (1998), commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art, is a “living” gallery installation. At the Whitney, Eiko & Koma performed for four weeks during museum hours. The Caravan Project (1999), performed in a specially modified trailer, is a “museum by delivery” installation. Offering, which premiered in New York’s Battery Park near Ground Zero in 2002, is a ritual of communal mourning. Dancing in the Street produced Offering in parks, plazas and gardens throughout Manhattan and Eiko & Koma later toured the work across America and internationally. Tree Song (2004) honors trees, their resilience, rebirth and endurance. Offering, Tree Song, and Cambodian Stories Revisited (2007) were all performed in the St Mark’s Church graveyard in Manhattan. Water (2011) was co-commissioned by the Lincoln Center and will be premiered in the Paul Milstein reflecting pool in Hearst Plaza, New York.
Eiko & Koma are currently working on constructing a retrospective of their work (2009–2012). This project will include new commissions of a living installation and a stage work, reworking of older pieces, outdoor performances, photo exhibitions, video installations, showings of their media dances and documentaries, the publication of a retrospective catalog, workshops and other educational activities such as panel discussions and lectures. Raven (2010) was developed for the retrospective project. The first series of performances performed as part of the Retrospective project was titled Regeneration (2010). Time is Not Even: Space is Not Empty is a retrospective exhibition that was first shown in progress at Wesleyan University's Zilkha Gallery in 2009. In 2011, the exhibition opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago with performances of Naked, The Caravan Project, and Regeneration. - wikipedia
Eiko and Koma's Naked
Naked is a new "living installation" created by the renowned Japanese-American movement artists Eiko & Koma as part of the Walker Art Center's Event Horizon exhibition showcasing the collections. Commissioned by the Walker, this movement/visual art installation features Eiko & Koma's live bodies in an immersive and charged environment of their own design. It is the duo's first prolonged return to a gallery-based living installation since Breath, a month-long project at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1998. Visitors are invited to stay for a few minutes or the entire day, and return numerous times to experience the piece evolve.
RIVER (? 1995): Eiko & Koma's Outdoor Performance (????)
from Eiko and Koma
Retrospective Project Video Archive #20. Excerpt.
An excerpt from Eiko & Koma's 1995 outdoor work RIVER. The performance shown above took place at Duke University a a part of the American Dance Festival (ADF) in 1996. Eiko & Koma performed RIVER in nine different rivers and water sites. The footage was provided by American Dance Festival Archive. Camera by Douglas Rosenberg.
Please also see the related documentary available on vimeo, "Dancing in Water: The Making of River."
Eiko and Koma in “Naked.”
The King and Queen of Slow Get Busy
Chad Batka for The New York Times
By GIA KOURLAS
Such a drastic dichotomy exists between the experimental choreographer-performers Eiko & Koma onstage and Eiko and Koma in life that sometimes it takes effort to remember that they are the same couple.
While they don’t refer to their brand of dance as Butoh, the form created in postwar Japan, their choreography, which inches along at a glacial pace and has been performed in graveyards and in water, is imbued with a similar poetry of stillness. It transcends time.
Offstage, the only time they take a break from talking is when they move, which they do with ferocious speed and frequency. As they prepared for their multifaceted and multiyear venture, “Retrospective Project,” a fresh approach to exploring a dance artist’s career, beginning atDanspace Project on Thursday night, their Midtown Manhattan apartment spilled over with artifacts. They met in 1971 in Tatsumi Hijikata’s dance studio in Tokyo and are now two of the most venerated artists in the dance world. While the moving-painting quality of their choreography is profoundly arresting, both theatrically and visually — they find the beauty in ugly — there is another layer that gets to the essence of nature. You connect to their world not by watching, but by imagining that you are living inside their bodies.
Koma, waving his arms wildly, interrupted Eiko’s show-and-tell of video excerpts on their new Web site,eikoandkoma.org.
“Eh,” Eiko said, rolling her eyes and moving toward the kitchen. “I’m making lunch.” (It’s helpful to know that they are married.)
Peering intently at the monitor, Koma exclaimed, “That’s me!” In the 1976 work “White Dance,” Koma, in red, could be seen throwing potatoes with abandon.
He dashed down a hallway, only to return with the same costume draped over his arm. “See?” Koma said, holding the red fabric up to his trim frame. “The original costume I am going to be wearing. Eiko, the same.”
Eiko and Koma (she is 58, and he is 61) may address the aging body in their work, but it’s true — they look good. For this installment of the project, “Regeneration,” they will perform “White Dance,” the first piece they presented in New York, and their new “Raven.” The retrospective is conceived and produced by Samuel A. Miller, with whom Eiko & Koma first worked in the early 1990s, when he directed Jacob’s Pillow.
“We could never do this without him,” Eiko said. “We would be fighting to the death.”
The project is a collaborative effort: along with Danspace Project and Asia Society, it involves a network of partners, including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The idea isn’t to create a package that will travel from place to place; each appearance by Eiko & Koma will feature elements, including videos and installations, selected specifically by the host organization.
“We’re not trying to get it done in any one place,” Mr. Miller explained, adding, “It’s a cumulative experience.”
In New York the retrospective will include three engagements. Next year the artists will reimagine “Breath” (1998) at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, and in 2012 there will be a culminating event in a museum or gallery space. For “Raven,” created as the retrospective’s centerpiece, Eiko and Koma look back to “Land” (1991), which was inspired by New Mexico. At Danspace Project, Robert Mirabal, its composer, will perform an updated score.
“Where ‘Land’ had a very beautiful landscape,” Eiko said, “this one is very much like a postwar Japan.”
A mere glance at their living room provided ample evidence of their set: there were bundles of greenish-black feathers, straw and large pieces of hand-burned canvas.
“Why raven?” Koma asked before answering his own question. “Scavenger.”
Eiko explained, “If there is a death in Asia or in certain parts of Tibet, they bring the body to the field, and birds come and eat it. Our hair is black. We are cousins in a way.”
In an Eiko & Koma production, it’s tricky to tell where the set ends, and the bodies begin. Holding a bundle of feathers as if she were modeling a luxurious coat, Eiko said: “This is interesting, no? We tried to make a costume, but it started to look like ‘Sesame Street.’ Big Bird. It’s an object. It’s a different species’s spirit that is intact. I think I can carry it.”
While different versions of “Raven” will be presented during the next couple of years, part of the point of the retrospective is to reveal Eiko & Koma as living artists with a past, a present and a future. “We’ve been talking about how in 2012 there should be clues about the next arc of work,” Mr. Miller said. “This is not an ending. It’s a moment in time.”
Koma, for one, is titillated by the idea of the next chapter. “We have been artists for the last 40 years,” he said. “In the next 20 years, what am I going to be?”
“My only wish in my life,” Eiko interjected, “is that he dies before me, so that I have a little life, post-Koma.”
Koma said: “We joke, we joke. We have done many, many things. But two things we haven’t done yet: divorcing and dying.” - www.nytimes.com/
Eiko & Koma: Naked
In the summer of 1998, renowned Japanese-American choreographers Eiko & Koma created Breath, a living installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. For seven hours a day over the course of a month, one of the two artists lay naked within a space composed of tea-stained silk, dried leaves, and other organic materials. Described at the time as their “first visual arts installation,” the piece used the museum as a frame to concentrate the viewer on how the body relates to time, space, and the environment—core aspects of the artists’ work. Twelve years later, Eiko & Koma have returned to a gallery setting with Naked, a new and intensely charged artistic experience. This time both dancers are present throughout, immersed in an environment that they composed out of burnt canvas, soil, feathers, rice paste, sea salt and dripping water. The month-long living installation unfolds six hours a day, six days a week as part of Event Horizon, an exhibition of works from the Walker’s collection. The artists’ living presence in the galleries complements the feedback loop between performance and materials at the core of many of the works on view. “We think that the body offers a radical questioning, particularly in a museum context—not asking questions necessarily, but questioning as a state of being,” says Eiko. “A body gives other objects and situations scale and reference.” Visitors are invited to stay for a few minutes or the entire day, and return numerous times to experience the work. Emerging in the artistic and political tumult of late 1960s Tokyo, Eiko & Koma have made the United States their home since the mid-1970s. While influenced by the Japanese avant-garde (including Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, the founders of butoh) and German modernist expressionist dance, in the nearly 40 years of their collaboration the pair has created a highly subjective choreographic and visual vocabulary, often utilizing textured environments that they handcraft from organic materials. The core of the artists’ work is the body stripped bare—metaphorically, often physically—through which they explore its position within the natural and social world. In an era dominated by digital networks of information and communication, where human consciousness is dispersed into the virtual sphere, the artists assert the importance of the body as concrete and contingent in its presence or absence. Eiko & Koma were first invited to the Walker in 1981 for New Dance USA. Since then, they have presented 12 performance pieces with the institution, 6 of which were commissioned works. In 2009, the artists were again commissioned by the Walker to create Naked. The installation also coincides with the development of the Retrospective Project, a groundbreaking three-year review of the artists’ major works, which will be hosted by several institutions and includes a catalogue to be published by the Walker in spring 2011. - www.e-flux.com/