In October or 2017, I took a workshop on Butoh for a week. There I learnt all about butoh, it’s conventions and its theories. The artwork placed above represents the most significant moments and memories I collected within the week-long workshop.
Here is an explanation:
On the top left corner of the page, you see a magazine cut out of a painting of a malnourished looking man from a magazine. In order to represent one of the masks learnt in the class called ‘The Butoh Scream’ which represents agony, pain, distress, and sadness, I drew on the face to open the mouth and white out the eyes.
On the top right corner, you can see a silhouette of a crumbling, walking person. This was representative another activity where we became different objects or put in different textures into our movements. One of the textures we were asked to explore was crumpling paper. I drew a silhouette a someone walking it, crumpled it up and glued it on the paper to show this.
In the center of the artwork is an infinity sign, one side filled with a spiral and the other with branches. One of the lessons we had in our workshop is the idea of Infinite Fractals. Infinite Fractals are patterns found within nature that become smaller or larger without end. Within Infinite Fractals, there are branches and spirals. Examples of these are spiral shells and centers of sunflowers for spirals, and trees and veins for branches. Nature is one of the biggest influences in Butoh and we also explored fractals within our bodies. We put the movement of the shape of infinity itself (∞), within different parts of our body as we used the skill of isolation (to move one body part separate from the others), to move to music within a space. I struggled with the freedom of this experiment, where we had little instruction other than to create infinity shapes with different parts of our body and feel our bodies connect with the movement.
On the bottom of the page, you can see three faces made from oval shapes, kind of merging into one another. This was my representation of an activity we did in class where three of my classmates were asked to perform the butoh scream in a line against a light shining from underneath them. While watching this, I started to see shapes past their faces, where their movements became one and the three of them merged into one being. It seemed as if they all had the same feeling and somehow through this exercise, they synchronized more than just their movements. The three seemed to hollow out (represented by the blackness past their eyes and mouths) and simply become a representation of the emotion of pain and deep sadness instead of themselves. Watching this was extremely impactful and conveyed to me that even a contemporary, abstract, theatre dance, could convey such deep emotion and meaning when done properly.
Across the page, you see four words: Essence, Imagination, Empty Body, and Isolation. These four words are the themes of Butoh-Fu an extension of Butoh, in which “words/sentences first used by the Master Tatsumi Hijikata to stimulate dancers movement while choreographing and that became a unique method for choreography” (Butoh Channel Berlin, 2015). Essence reminds performers to take and perform the essence of things instead of simply imitating them. For example, to act the pride and fear a lion creates in others instead of simply roaring like one. Imagination is key, as you must free and become your imagination using the words that come to your ears. Empty Body is the practice of making your body an empty slate for new ideas and images to be created. Isolation is the separate movement of body parts that do not interact with each other.
Finally, the background creates an atmosphere for the reflective piece of artwork in which I explored nature as well as my inner body. The dark blue lights represent the depth of one’s self while intermixing with the nature and environment around us that we created through Butoh.
I learnt a lot from exploring the world of Butoh. Through the exploration, I learnt to think of all the possibilities of changing or adding your own meanings to a simple activity, or convention. Through the knowledge I gained through the many theories created by the founders of Butoh, such as Jinen, I learnt about the concept of the cycle of life and death and how one’s body and soul interacts with the nature around them, and this cycle that exists unarguably in these mediums. This became a platform to base my piece of exploration of how life going by can be shown using the slowest, and simplest of movements. I also learnt from this piece the meditating effects of Butoh and in particular Bisoku. It helps you to become more conscious about your individual movements and creates intention in every movement you create. Not only that, it can teach you to make yourself more centered, and relax. Having to be conscious of your every movement pushes you to be in the present, and in order to create a realistic look of gravity being worked on you, you must relax yourself to be able to feel all the gravity’s effects on each of the body parts. I will take this knowledge on to future projects and make sure that every movement I create has been thought out and has intention in it.