What can we say? Apprehending reality anew
The daily life that we thought would continue for eternity has been dismembered; so much has been lost. Since then our world has been overwhelmed by a “grand narrative”: ripped apart by anger and uncertainty, by loss and emptiness, we sense confusion and lack the words to express this new reality. We are now in a time and place where living itself has a heavy load. Shaken away from the long and beautiful dream of normality, what can we now say when faced with this reality?
Reality forces judgment on us. Will we stay or flee? Do we believe or doubt the information? Do we drink this water, or throw it away? Stage the performance or cancel? Talk publicly – or avoid it? Today just being in the here and now has become a load on our shoulders, and demands our verdict. That decision may well determine the existence of our present and future. And so as the days go by in this state of emergency, in the long term far from this situation encroaching on our ordinary life – it may well simply become our normality.
While this unreal reality is still very much in the present progressive tense what is it that we want to continue questioning within our festival platform and in the city we call Tokyo? Through the medium of theatre what is it that we want to re-comprehend, re-grasp? Is it even possible to comprehend again? If I am honest, I feel that we must start F/T11 from this ground zero of not understanding.
When a colossal “grand narrative” has overwhelmed our normality and reality has surpassed even fiction, what is it that we can say? After the loss of an untenable amount of life and property, of whole cities and landscapes, after being inundated by the images and words of this, what can we put into expression? When we have become unable to believe the media that communicates the systems, society and politics that we have up till now accepted as presupposed – can we then set up and practise a new social model and form of community? Faced with an out of control pressure and by even the permitted small build-up of opposition, what kind of future does our human power make it possible to portray?
The upcoming F/T, after much time has passed, will somehow grasp anew this complex reality that we are grappling with, and with it will surely begin the tasks of considering and putting into practice some of the infinite questions that derive from our situation. And then there is the work of slowly re-joining all those things so suddenly dismembered, and of re-connecting them to the future. There is no question that this will take a frightening amount of time. I want F/T11 to be a site of bluntly facing up to these questions together with the artists, staff, and our audiences.
Our first plan for the F/T11 program was conceived around an experiment in re-questioning the relationships between the city and theatre, and between theatre and society, by taking performance out of the “theater” building in a variety of ways. However, with our large number of new works the program is now surely heavily going to reflect the urgent questions of post-3.11. More than anything, as our gaze studies the city’s landscape the traces of the catastrophe strongly remain, and theatre that confronts the city will also not be able to avoid conflicting with this “grand narrative”.
As it happens F/T11 will stage 3 productions in outdoors spaces, conceived out of those places’ inherent scenery and social and historical contexts through physically – and decidedly criminally – breaking out of the theater space. For F/T11’s opening work both Norimizu Ameya and Romeo Castellucci were commissioned each to create freely something from the words of Kenji Miyazawa, to be presented in the unique setting of the Yumenoshima Park, connecting the ground with the heavens, the nature and the artificial, the past and future, in a night that will resonate with 1,000 people.
René Pollesch has continued the challenge theatre’s key areas through his radical techniques and now he brings his outdoor theatre representation of the German Ruhr industrial district to an open wasteland in Tokyo’s Toyosu, critically depicting the landscapes of both the city and its suburbs, and denouncing the contradictions of our contemporary society.
And leading outdoor performance company Ishinha will be staging a performance on the roof of a department store, the company’s first outdoor Tokyo production in almost 20 years and aiming to re-compose the landscape imagery of twenty-first century Tokyo and Ikebukuro.
These 3 outdoor productions will connect with the Dramaturgie of the city and will surely reflect the reality of our lives.
And the language and expressions, born out of the daily life of the contemporary city and now violently dismembered, how will they change now? Akio Miyazawa has up to now always woven narratives out of the language and movement specific to the city. Now he will create a story using the two time axes of 1986 and 2011 to bring to the stage accumulation and breakdown of the age. Yudai Kamisato also searches for new boundaries through unique language and physical sensations, and for F/T11 will confront the post-earthquake severe feeling of unease from a narrative that takes in an enigmatic object beyond human control. On the other hand, Chaos*Lounge has taken contemporary Internet and otaku (geek) subcultures as an infinite creative resource for contemporary art. It will gather “characters” and geeks in their Holy Land of Akihabara for a theatrical event that will attempt to critique post-disaster Japanese culture.
These fictional “performances” and “theatre works” will surely be unforgettable for raising fundamental issues of levels of validity after the catastrophe, and as representing the attitudes of theatre artists in the wake of 3.11. Akira Takayama is known for his numerous non-theatre projects and this autumn he will be holding a unique “referendum” in Tokyo, using answers about the reality we are experiencing to an attempt a revolution or intervention. Today we are living a reality that has surpassed fiction; theatre too, not remaining in the frames of “fiction”, but can evolve into a new movement that produces action on the present.
But what about dance? F/T11 will re-stage and re-create 2 dance works that ask fundamental questions about what dance is. Revolutionary choreographer Jérôme Bel will take his key work “The Show Must Go On” and make a Japanese version with 26 local dancers, casting a critical and humorous gaze on the body language and physicality of our globalized age. Tsuyoshi Shirai has forged a career in seeking out movement that balances what we cannot see – air, gravity – and for F/T he will construct an elaborate still life painting through physical bodies and sound, through movement and stillness, continuing his attempts to grasp hold of time and space again through the medium of dance.
New developments for F/T11 include the expansion of last year’s Emerging Artists Program into the Asian mainland to kick-start a shared Asian platform. 11 companies and artists were chosen from a total of 150 applicants, 70 from Japan and 80 from the rest of Asia. Each of the final 11 possesses a unique perspective self-sown out of the present day of their area. Their fresh presentations, based on their diverse sets of values, will work in healthy competition with each other as they aim for the newly established F/T Award. As numerous artists and critics gather from over Asia, the 3 weeks will surely be a packed period connecting contemporary Asia to a shared future.
One of our central projects, the F/T Station will this year not have one specific set location but will be spread out around the city. We will also present new developments, the F/T Canteen, F/T Stay and F/T Salon, in order to enjoy F/T more fully and deeply, and link up with the pre-existing communities and places of Tokyo. We want visitors to experience a strange urban space not normally visualized, an encounter with specifically F/T-esque time and other people. Further, as a special project in response to the earthquake we will host a relay series of “Empty Space Readings”. Based on the voluntary participation and co-operation of artists who previously presented work at F/T the readings will appear for one night only. The power of the words chosen by the artists will fill the empty spaces and cause us to think of all the thinks we have lost, and surely deepen solidarity with those things that will be produced in the future. We also plan to livestream these echoing voices for viewers in the disaster zone.
We are witness a great turning point in history: today what can we say? We are at present enwrapped in silence through out inability to speak. In order tenderly to re-connect the things dismembered and to grasp anew the uncertain facts – now our vision will be put to the test.
F/T Program Director