Q1: At first, I’d like to ask you about the idea of “darkness”. DANSE DES TENEBRES (ANKOKU BUTO) —Why is your dance called such a name?
Ko: The ANKOKU BUTO is firstly named by Tatsumi Hijikata at the end of the 50’s. He was performing, involved with and involving in an aggressive movement covering all the artistic domains at that time. It was a manifest against the traditional Japan and the modern (Americanized) Japan. Though he is my maestro of the dance, I don’t know exactly why he named his new dance as “Dance of Darkness”... I myself, however, interpret the meaning of the “Darkness” as: something inexplicable, beyond our ordinary sense, invisible force which pushes us to the primitive and altered states, or the hidden dimension of our world. Please don’t confuse the “darkness” in my sense with so-called “Orientalism” or “Asian mysticism” such as macrobiotic, yoga, Krishna, group meditation, astrology, etc. The “Darkness” to which I have just referred it not such “exotic” (for the occidental mind) techniques, or philosophy, if you want, but certain primordial foundation of the human universality, universal attitudes: desire for metamorphoses, for ecstasy, for trans, for delirium for education, for love, and finally for death.
Q2: Missing from the original text
Q3: Your previous performance in series (1977-) HINAGATA, is described ideogrammatically as “Ever-Dark-Matrix”, isn’t it? From where does your interest and imagination of the “Darnkess” come? And does it keep on now, for example in Iki?
Ko: I don’t speak about my part works so much... But now I make it precise what is the “Darkness” to the dance, at least to my dance.
Remember the excitement of children when their train go through a tunnel. Remember the solemn feeling of adults and children, in a certain birthday party or new years party, when the candles are out. Then we meet with something strange, informal and enchanting. It is the power of darkness, found in our daily life. We don’t, nevertheless, usually reflect on that power perhaps because the tunnel is too short, the party is too noisy... The dance can crystalize and condense the effect of the darkness, owing to its fictive action, to its theatrical corporality.
It is real because it is fictive, it is true because it is false. The darkness “shed light” upon the other side of life: death. The death is fictive and false because we, the living, have never experienced the death itself, but on the other hand, it is more “real” and “true” than any other experience (vécu) because no one doesn’t lose his family, friend or pet animal by death. When a member of family or a friend or a pet dies we can experiment death as a distance itself. Death is both present and absent. In the darkness we once experience the death. When the train goes out of the tunnel, we revive. This is also why the tacit darkness, even if is momentary, is necessary for the mise en scène of the birthday party. The Butoh or my own dance keeps on digging this “primitive” layer of our consciousness: it must be la mort vécue.
Q4: Oh, you are too anthropological! Did you study it seriously? Which anthropologists interest you deeply?
Ko: You, really? I love read Mircia Eliade, Kerenyi, Jung a little... but they aren’t anthropologists, are they?
I was much interest in their symbolic interpretations of the rite, the myth, or the Mandara. It is true that they are clear and well-organized, but what I am interested in lies in the derivation and the transgression from the norm they described. In my opinion, aside Nietzsche, Bataille is the first to pay attention to that excess. Have you read his Partie Maudite? It is the first “anthropological” work I statisfied with.
The human being, western as well as Eastern, is the product of play (jeu) of Eros, in other words is at the mercy of the game (jeu) of the consumption (consummation and consummation) and the exchange. In Japan, Yukio Mishima must be Bataillian in its true sense. It is highly evident in his short essay titles “Sun and Steel”. There he argues how the body and the soul are unified in the extreme states, in which man cannot react to nothing, or feel nothing because of the suffocation, speed of what surrounds him. (He excited his experience of the zoom of a jet fighter plane, and the fall of Ikarus). It is really the erotic dimension. In that dimension, the life and the death become reversible, or more exactly, we live the gay death, we die the miserable life. In the dizzy-gizzy speed, however we mustn’t lose ourselves. Because we don’t live in a certain primitive or despotic society, where the politic economy is simple enough to organize a “true” fête with “true” fools and scape goats, but in a (post-) capitalistic one, in which the fête is forced to be more artificial and fictive. (I don’t mean the primitive society and its fête are “natural”… what man makes is always “artificial” in a sense. In the Vertigo, we are divided into two: the sane and the insane, when the latter overwhelms the former completely, our body becomes can be called paranoia. Butoh measures the distance between sane and insane, between the my-self (moi-même) and the my-difference (moi-différence). I’ll be my mirror.
Q5: In this turn, you are rushing into psychanalyse. Please return to the discourse on the eroticism, or the dance.
Ko: I’m going to cite my favorite phrase from Hagakure, Bible of Samurai, written in 17, 18 Century:
The love supreme must put up with the distance, when the two meet each other, the love becomes poor, patience through the whole life to die with grief. It is the true love.
The mystery of love is found in its excessiveness and unlimitedness. Encounter, exchange, devotion, consumption and finally death.
After the consumption, they come to want nothing, even their partner. The rest is silence… This is the schematic version of my understanding of Bataille and Mishima as economic anthropologists. When once falls in love, one goes beyond his moral towards the limits of his own cosmos. Love, non limit! This “cursed” part (partie maudite) that we find the real self rooted on the lost rite, dispersed myth, and forgotten lullabye.
The dance, also, as far as it is what Nietzsche dedicates several ballades, must concern the “Eros+Massacre”. The Butoh crystalizes the figure of death by way of implicit immediacy, of the immemorial imagination, of the immanent intensity, of the impetuous improvisation.
The Butoh is no school since the figure has no school, the Butoh is informal since that figure is. The butoh repeats the circulation of life and death.
Q6: You mean, the butoh is a kind of initiation, the rite of passage. Your other performance, The Mummy, is also connected with this idea, isn’t it?
Ko: Yet, it’s sure. A mummy is intermediary between the life and the death. He lives the gradual “death”, glissements progressifs du désir de la mort!
He is, in a sense, an exceptional being. But we also know the same process of the “Metamorphoses”: sickness. In Japanese language, “Sickness” (yamai) is associated with “Darkness” (yami) and “mountain” (yama). It is not haphazard at all that the sickness (yamai) as the exogenetic (strange, exotic, foreign, alien) force, risks us an abyss (abîme) of death, shows us the unknown invisible part between life and death – it is the “darkness” (yami) – ans makes us approaching a mountain (yama), which is thought as the Land of Demon in Japanese mythology. Besides, that sacred mountain (yama) is the other Land, corresponding to Hades in Grecian Mythology, called Yomi. My dance is a travel in the Hades of Orpheus guided by psichopompos… In the pilgrim I go beyond myself, out of my own state. I will be ex-tase, ecstasy. In the performance, I always try to present something intermediary, reversible, exchangeable in our lived death (mort vécue) and dead life (vie morte). We say very often “I love you madly”, “I love you to die” (“je t’aime à mourir”, “je suis fou de toi”). We unconsciously knows that the death and the madness, rather than the life and the sanity have much to do with love, the seduction and the passion. And we may say the “sickness of love”... My dance expose you, probably, this series of association (sickness, death, ecstasy, madness, seduction, passion, love...) conducted by the “Darnkess”.
Q7: Do you feel the reaction difference between the East and the West when you perform?
Ko: Yes, I think European spectators are more positive than the Japanese. It is because, perhaps, of the distance. The distance is very important for my performance. Precisely it makes me dance, generates my desire for the dance. I have just denied the “exotism”, or the “Oriental boom” in Europe. But I must add that I was also fascinated by some kind of exotism as they. Exo-tism, literally “something outside”, is needless to say the motivation for us to be engaged in, to be involved with. I always search for something far away rather than near by, strange than intimate, inauspicious (néfaste) than auspicious, perilous than safe, abnormal than normal.
It is the gap that I’m thirsty for.
Every time I perform, I refuse that identification with something “exotic”. As soon as a road is accomplished, even by myself, I swerve from it to look for something more exotic, farther away. My work is always “en route”, “under construction”. This is why I sometimes refuse the current “exotism” among the European people. It appears to me to be tamed, become habitual... The distance may be decreased....
Not love the near neighbors, but the distance others – speaks Nietzsche. The most distant others are monsters and strangers. For his Zarathoustra concerns the superman and the monster after the death of God, after the capitalism. When a superman unifies the mass society, he needs something to be refused, excluded: sacrifice-monster. That’s our body and our language.