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New York City is the most fatally fascinating thing in America. She sits like a great witch at the gate of the country, showing her alluring white face, and hiding her crooked hands and feet under the folds of her wide garments,—constantly enticing thousands from far within, and tempting those who come from across the seas to go no farther. And all these become the victims of her caprice. Some she at once crushes beneath her cruel feet; others she condemns to a fate like that of galley slaves; a few she favors and fondles, riding them high on the bubbles of fortune; then with a sudden breath she blows the bubbles out and laughs mockingly as she watches them fall.
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, 1912
Butoh emerged in 1959 in Japan, instigated by Tatsumi Hijikata, whose work was a provocation to modernity in general and specifically to the Western-lead reconstruction of Japan following World War II. In his 1960 essay “Inner/Outer Material,” Hijikata describes his performances as “bodies that have maintained the crisis of primal experience.” His work was grotesque, erotic, inflammatory, and rebellious. Sometimes dancers would flail wildly. Other times, they would stand completely still—though not serenely—held in place like an insect in amber, crushed by images, sensation, and histories. Rather than a specific dance grammar, butoh utilizes images to initiate movement. The dancers transform their sense of time, space, shape, and relationship based on a string of image poetry that propels them to move.
Read the whole thing at their blog via the link below. Leave any comments about this amazing art form below.
In this country we tend to be naive about history. We think it’s Newton’s perfect mechanical universe, out there predictably for everyone to see and set their watches by. But it’s more like curved space, and infinitely compressible and expandable time. It’s constant subatomic chaos.
—E. L. Doctorow