Sun, Mar 24, 2002 - Page 19 News List

Art captures art

Two photo exhibits attempt to convey the essence of stagecraft -- with Takushi Inada's work on butoh performers probing further than James Houston's skin-deep series

By David van der Veen  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Spectators at the upcoming butoh performances at Whashang Arts District may notice a graying Japanese photographer roaming around.

At A Pieced-Together Sukhavati, Takushi Inada will be adding to his stock which now stands at well over 10,000 black-and-white images of butoh performers. At the same time, 30 of his best works are on show in Dancers in Shades of Darkness, which opened at Whashang yesterday.

Shot on high-speed film in a large number of theaters in Japan since 1994, Dancers offers a rare glimpse into the Japanese art form that is essential viewing for all interested in photography and performance arts.

Butoh -- usually translated as "Dance of Darkness" -- has its origins in post-war Japan and can best be described as a mixture of traditional Japanese theater, mime and expressionist dance.

Performers are often characterized by white painted bodies, slow movements, bold heads and contorted postures. Performances are held in near-darkness with a minimum of props and lighting.

Given this, it comes as no surprise that nearly all of Inada's works show one or two performers against a pitch-black background. It is the range of captured expressions and emotions that does surprise.

"Inada prints in monochrome the butoh that only he can see," butoh performer Kuritaro is quoted as saying. "He's doing so like the ink painting artists in old times who portrayed all things in the universe, and it is as if he were playing with ghosts in darkness visible only to him."

A geologist by training, and a nature photographer by calling, Inada often spent extended periods of time in the wilderness, which let him feel closer to the folk religions of the distant past and keenly aware of the transitory nature of human existence. "When I read an article on butoh dancers expressing similar sentiments, I decided to explore butoh," Inada told the Taipei Times.

Art Notes:

What: Dancers in Shades of Darkness -- Takushi Inada photo exhibition

Where: Whashang arts district, 1 Pate Rd. Sec. 1, Taipei (北市華山藝文特區, 八德路一段一號)

When: Until March 28, Daily 10am - 8pm, except Monday

For him, butoh performers intend to reveal through their bodies something hidden in the depth of mankind's consciousness, and says that many of the new generation of butoh artists seem to have forgotten the spiritual importance of butoh.

"There is an increasing number of performers, but the number of performers I like is actually decreasing," Inada bemoaned.

One performer he does admire, and features in Dancers, is Hata Kanoko, who will stage A Pieced-Together Sukhavati from tomorrow through Wednesday at 7:30pm at Whashang.

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