motto capitalism
November 1, 2008

picking up from those comments on sexism, in the end almost everything takes me back to thinking about the logic, vices and (most recently and most problematicly) the merits of capitalism.

somehow Japan as a nation managed to overcome with enormous success a very hardcore situation. I’m not an expert on the subject, but it seems obvious that Japan’s evolution from 1945 to the present (or even just from WWII to the 1970’s) is admirable. and what’s interesting for me to think about (and super problematic) is the strategies and social models that were resorted to.

surely the social structure in post-war Japan can’t be disconnected from it’s previous social structure, but I have the feeling that the Social was very seriously engineered for economic growth. and yes, it sounds awful, it looks quite bad, but at the same time, the living standards in Japan seem far better than in many other places. so, I’m not proposing anything… I’m not trying to advocate for rigid social structures, or a moral of individual sacrifice. I just want to say that it does seem to be part of quite a big picture, and that when I think about it it makes me reconsider a bit, and it makes it more complex and difficult to criticize a system like that. that is what I meant before when I mentioned capitalism’s merits.

October 15, 2008

today I tried a little bit more around the idea of my ‘Japanyze’ side-dish – that is, a small semi-spontaneous side project I do during this trip. with ‘Japanyze’ I’m just wondering about the racial aspect of my fascination with Japan, and I’m wondering about desires of racial exchange, of being someone else, or something else… I heard once about make up products designed to make Japanese women look like they have bigger, more open eyes (which is, apparently, one of the cannons of beauty here – hence the eyes of the Manga and Anime drawings, for instance). so I thought, why not me? why not do the same but inverted? so I started tryng to tape my eyes, practice a misplaced temporary lifting, pulling the skin from my temples to make my eyes look like Japanese eyes… somehow.

a few times, now, I’ve tried to do it. today I found a better technique to hold it. and I checked also how it looks with yellow tape. I think the colour of the tape can also be an extra layer of reference. I also want to try it with white tape. maybe do a series of fotos… I would like to do a bit more of a performance with it, but I still doubt and wonder, and fear it might be offensive for someone. 

I had a nice conversation with Matsuo, in the meantime. we both drunk coffee while I was trying out the tape thing, and we had a cool talk about my idea and the potential reactions… I mentioned going out in the street like that, and also that I would like to go to a game center and do some pictures with taped eyes in a Puricura booth (a ‘game’ where you take some pictures and add some quick preset glittery effects and then get a few prints in small formats, for your wallet and your friends’… apparently popular amongst groups of people going out… hey, I even did it once we were out for dinner in Yokohama). and we talked about the posibility of people feeling offended, about a history of Japan being submitted to American racism, and about Japanese racism – while Japanese people might be offended by my gesture of pulling my eyes back, apparently old Japanese people use the same gesture to refer to Koreans and Chinese. we talked a bit about the Japan Bashing period, and about Japan’s incredible economic reconstruction after WWII. I brought in some unclear reference to Takayuki Tatsumi’s theory of ‘Creative Masochism’ and Matsuo agreed on my friend Ernesto’s comments (check a few posts ago) on the Japanese people being very adaptible.

so, while having this very interesting conversation, I had the space for two very important things: to keep thinking how to frame this idea (this image?) in an effective way, and to observe Matsuo’s response to my little performance. because, for the first 4 or 5 minutes, I was still using the tape and talking to him with pulled eyes – with Japanese eyes… I don’t know what he would say if he reads this in the blog (maybe he will tell me soon?), but I felt he wasn’t very comfortable. that’s why I took it off soon, but I think it was a great starting point for the conversation… maybe that is a nice format… maybe it can be a starting point for conversations… and going back a little bit: it seems quite important to find some layer that makes the little performance easier to bear, or to engage with, somehow to make sure it doesn’t seem like an offense. I think it could be quite funny, and that it should be clear that is not about mocking Japanese people but about making fun of my own desires and fantasies. that is what the framing, the form, needs to be about… some kind of balance between triggering something a bit visceral, and building up a friendly space to share, maybe by exposing oneself (the performer) to ridicule. this is an idea I’ve been working with when I was teaching, and sometimes in rehearsals, as a way to relax a bit the atmosphere and encourage some shamelesness from the other dancers… I think I have been very succesful at making myself look like a real idiot, but I am actually quite proud of it. I have to think about Robert (Steijn)’s teachings (I hope, Robert, you won’t take me wrong – I’m just trying to acknowledge influences).

so, to finish, I’m doubting wether to place a picture here or not. but I think it’s nicer to leave it to your imagination. in any case, I will probably show up with pictures or video or a performances at sime point.

rehearsal #4 – daijobu… no, better than daijobu but I don’t remember the word
September 28, 2008

rehearsal #Go – the relation with the group seems to keep (slowly) growing, and I think both them and me feel more comfortable and closer. very little bit closer. and it’s fun. the only issue is that still I keep having 1 or 2 dancers absent in every rehearsal, or people who leave earlier for different reasons. and so far is not a big problem, because the group is big and I’m not working very specifically/individually yet, but at some point I think having participated in one or two less rehearsals will be noticeable.

in any case, today we worked on some very simple movement material inspired in my first Tokyo impressions. I asked them to walk around in a group, in a kind of flock, but with a specific bouncy kind of weight shift that I saw in the Matsuris, the religious festivals from a couple of weeks ago. and then we ended up carrying (they ended up carrying) one of the dancers as a kind of small shrine, and counting out loud, a bit martially. it was kind of fun. and it was a lot of fun when they did it to tango music… but it was difficul to play musicaly with the tango. there is a very typical element of tango music called ‘rubatto’, which means ‘stolen’ and refers to stolen fractions of time – the musicians have a score and a specific rhythm, but they are constantly ‘stealing’ time either to suspend and slow down, or to accelerate their phrasing. very beautiful, but very difficult to follow. anyways I’m not thinking of playing the music in the performance (I hope I don’t end up doing it…), but it was nice to try.

we also worked a little bit with the voice, in spite of my ignorance on the subject. I guess eventually I should get informed on how to coach people to use their voices, but in the meantime I will keep telling myself how much more interesting it is to work on things that I don’t know… so, we worked with a blend of both excercises that date back to Laura Moro’s movement research class and some ideas from my last process. it was quite unclear (to call it somehow) on my side, but actually it did work and when we moved in space again it did bring their voices out more. slowly, slowly… things do seem to work. but I keep wondering if I need to try to push them even more… forever the same questions! it’s so lame!

well, finally, I was shocked by finding out that they were shocked by finding out that I was thinking that maybe the piece could be 15 minutes long. I don’t really know what they were expecting because they always withdraw their opinions a little bit after our first desencuentro*. so they said that 12′ or 13′ is ok, but I have the impression that they were still in shock, like when I said that maybe entering the space could take 2 minutes…

*(desencuentro: a dis-encounter? is not exactly the opposite of an encounter… and apparently there is no translation for the word. a pitty, since it is actually the title of my favourite tango, the one I’ve been using in rehearsals)

¥ 315 000 for a ‘Che Guevara’ cigar box and a beautiful Tokyo-scape
September 24, 2008

observations become a lie as soon as I write them down
September 23, 2008

in Japan the toilet seats have a system that keeps them constantly warm. transit is always on the left, including sidewalks and staircases – except where it is otherwise indicated. in Japan things are highly regulated, with indications and instructions everywhere. very polite, firm suggestions. in Japan people are very polite. Tokyo is quite chaotic, with bycicles riding on the sidewalks, in a very unpredictable way, indecisive enough to become scary. in Japan it is not so easy to find people that speak English. in Japan people don’t touch each other much, and they greet you with a bow, from a distance. to make up, they greet you several times, specially when you leave. in Japan there are (luckily) cold water dispensers everywhere, ready for the thirsty dweller. even better since in Japan bottled water is expensive. in Tokyo mobile phones are a plague.

in Japan everyone wears mouth and nose masks, like the ones nurses use, to protect the others from catching their diseases. specially in the summer/autumn change of season, when everyone gets sick. in Japan food is very cheap. Japanese people get drunk every day after work. in Japan everyone wears mouth and nose masks to protect themselves from the polen and things that come off the trees, because they are all very allergic people. specially in the summer/autumn change of season, when a lot of stuff comes off the trees. in Japan food is very expensive. sometimes they have to spend a night in a capsule hotel because they are too drunk to go back home. Japanese people are very cold. Japanese people are a bit like animé, expressive nearly to the point of expressionism. Japanese food is great and very healthy and energizing. Japanese food is all yucky and sticky and slimy. Tokyo never sleeps. you can always find shops, restaurants and every kind of service open at all times.

I don’t mind it being a lie, but how can I stop my movement material from becoming unimportant as soon as I try to set it?

metro, eyes, race
September 14, 2008

the trains and metros are my favourite spaces for observation. I’ve been spending from 1 to 2 hs a day in trains, and they are a special place to exercise my voyeurism and racial curiosity. the trains are usually quite full but not really packed, so there is still space for seeing the people in between the people. what’s most striking is that they (the Japanese people, who else?) seem to be very good at not looking – for whatever reason they either look down, sleep, play with a PSP, sit with closed eyes, read or, their favourite, look into their mobiles (they can be reading e-mails, the newspaper, watching TV or just fixing their eyes on the telephone). so, the funny thing is that, in working so hard not to look at anyone (not to become voyeurs – maybe it’s an expression of politeness?) they become really accesible and easy to look at. I think I’ve never been so comfortable looking at people!

(oh, well… to be honest, of course they do look sometimes at other people. sometimes I am looked back at, after I’ve been observing someone in the train. but they really avoid eye contact. and its not only about not being looked back by the person you’re looking at, but also not having anyone else looking at you. a kind of impunity…)

and then, getting a bit darker, all this excercising of voyeurism has taken me to think about the racial issue, which turned out in an unexpected way. before coming to Japan I was expecting to experience very clearly my racial oddity – the fact that here even my skin or hair or eyes show that I’m a foreigner. I projected on the eyes of the Japanese my own expectation of difference. I thought I would experience constantly my otherness (a perspective both scary and exciting). but in being here I am surprised not by thinking that I am less other (maybe I am as foreign as I anticipated), but in not feeling the others so other… I am surprised at how familiar the Japanese look to me, not in cultural terms (which was more foreseeable) but in terms of bodies and faces and skins and almond-shaped eyes… I was expecting a seriously different experience.

in the end, it`s almost as if they were also human beings!… amazing. that’s cultural shock for you.

opening; airplane – macdonardo: first impressions
September 11, 2008

So, I didn’t really manage to inaugurate this blog before leaving Amsterdam. I was too busy cleaning up, preparing my ‘appartment’ for Simon and Marzena, finishing my lugagge, organizing which video and music files I wanted to make sure I was bringing with me on my computer… I thought it would be nice to open the blog with writing about my expectations and desires, and to spill some of the anticipation and the excitement… but, to be honest, that whole bussiness resulted more elusive than one would expect. Even now, on the airplane, about 1 hour before setting foot in Tokyo, Japan, for the first time in my life, it stays elusive. I don’t know why… I wish I had had more time last week to just linger on the thoughts of not only visiting Japan but also starting a new creative process… The thing is at the moment I’d like to be less confused and more excited. Somehow my fixation and desire for Japan seems now more arbitrary and empty than ever… and at the same time, I’m really looking forward at making a new piece.

… (I lose my track and I get hooked up with an episode of The Simpsons on the airplane TV, so I take a break)

I’m finally here. Though not really, not yet. I have refused to arrive, actually. I feel too tired for it. Instead of leaving my bag in a locker and hanging out around Shibuya until the time comes to meet my hostess, I enter a McDonalds, where I can just point at a foto and pull out a yen note. I know I don’t need much language to order, I know what I’m going to get, and most important, I know I’m not going to get kicked out, or bothered, or probably even talked to. I can just buy something cheap and sit there (here) with my computer for as long as I need. So I’m still in McDonald’s, I haven’t arrived in Japan yet – I barely had a glimpse of Tokyo through the train windows. But I refuse to arrive. I’m too tired, awake now for over 24 hs and over 9000 km of flight. When Virginia, my hostess, shows up, then I will consider myself arrived.

The McDonald’s choice has also made me aware that this is the first time in quite a while that I’m in a place where language is going to be an issue. A serious issue. A scary and exciting issue. I realise that in the last few years I’ve been encountering a lot of (new) languages, but always with some degree of a capacity to access them – some familiarity, some way of relating german to some opera to dutch to english or italian to spanish to portuguese to french… I can now even recognise (with a certain probability of failure) when someone is speaking swedish, or finnish. But here I feel for the first time completely helpless. I don’t even dare to say “Arigato”. I feel embarrased of the three or four sounds I know. And together with that, I also feel a certain racial embarrasment. I’ve never been so (ethnically?) self-conscious. When I was standing in the train, I felt so curious, so full of a desire to look at people, at women, at men, at their clothes, at their sensuality, at their postures, at their looking. And at the same time I felt very embarrased, and very much observed though I couldn’t really see anyone looking at me. Talk about a performative experience… I wanted to enjoy the embarrasment and I wanted to be more obscene and daring in my own peeping, but I think my brain has been also a bit too active this morning, or active in the wrong way. I almost had a conversation on the airplane, and I almost had another one on the train. I even thought that it would be good to warm up my sociability before meeting my hostess, but I think I was too busy with myself. I seem to be all shaken and I seem unable to get a grip of myself. While I was reflecting upon not being shocked at all (as in the well reknowned “cultural shock”) I realised that I had had a kind of self-cultural-seizure, a system crash, an overload of anticipation… but then again, it might be that I’m just too tired, and I need to rest.