White Night 2014

Last Saturday was this year’s White Night – Nuit Blanche Kyoto – the all night modern art culture event inspired by its Parisian counterpart. This year, there were 35 locations, and together with a housemate I went to the French Institute not far from Ebisu’s to see an Experimental Tea Ceremony. nuit blanche kyoto 2014 logoThe tea ceremony itself was not experimental at all. Although it was hard to see the details, the ceremony appeared to me very traditional: a woman in formal kimono, traditional tatami and tea utensils,  refined and measured movements that were just so, an attendant to offer the finished tea to a special guest of honour in the first row of the audience. Cleaning of the utensils afterwards.

The experimental part was the surroundings: There was a saxophonist playing music, well, more tones than a melody, really… I liked it, it added something special, although I’m not sure whether he was playing live or the music came from a tape – it was heavily alienated and remixed with other sounds. The other additional thing was a dance performance that started about half way into the tea ceremony. It was a performance similar to the one of last year, but it lasted much longer, and it was more… vigorous, especially towards the end. The dance started when something that looked like stage decoration began to move slowly, then the dancer started to remove the coat he wore (underneath was body paint and a fundoshi, a Japanese loincloth). He seemed to somehow threaten the woman who had just finished the tea ceremony, but he was carefully avoiding to touch her in any way. She left after a while and the dancer then had the stage to himself until the very end. All through his performance, the music kept being played.

This type of modern dance is called Butoh, it has been developed in the 1960s as a rather special Japanese art form, and has since spread to other countries as well. My housemate was really thrilled about this, she likes modern art, and this type of dance especially. I was not so excited about it, to be honest. Different than last year, the performance could not grip me, I did not have the impression there was any story that was told, and I thought it too long; maybe 10 minutes less would have made a greater impact. I can appreciate the great body control that is necessary for a performance like this, but still, it is not quite my thing… My housemate went to another Butoh performance just tonight, but I passed on this one. I think I’ll need a bit more distance before I go and actively seek another one out…