The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Takao Kawaguchi
Takao Kawaguchi
Born in Saga Prefecture in 1962, Kawaguchi is a member of the performer/artist group “dumb type.” After being active in a Spanish-language theater circle in college, he studied a type of movement theater called “mime” based on pantomime while also participating in a number of projects ranging from experimental theater to dance and performance art. In June of 1988 he mounted his own first production, an experimental performance based on Tennessee William’s Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen at Nakano Terpsichore, Tokyo. From September of the same year he went to study at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona on a Spanish government scholarship. Returning to Japan, he joined in the forming of the dance company ATA DANCE with Atsuko Yoshifuku in 1990 and performed with it until its dissolution in 1995. And then, from 1996 he joined the artist group dumb type and took part in creation and the tours of OR, Memorandum and Voyage. The company is still touring with some of the pieces today. From 2000, he has been performing actively with artists, musicians and performers of various genres as well as doing solo works including Night Colour (2001), Di Que No Ves (Say You Don’t See) (2003), D.D.D. (2004), and Tablemind (2006). D.D.D. is a collaboration with the Khoomei (throat singing) artist Fuyuki Yamakawa, who creates works on the theme of technology and the body. Since the piece was premiered in Tokyo in 2004, it has been performed at the Queer Zagreb Festival in Zagreb, Croatia in Sept. 2005, the Venice Biennale in June 2006, the MODAFE 2007 festival in Seoul, S. Korea in June 2007 and at Esplanade in Singapore in July 2007.
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Takao Kawaguchi Di Que No Ves
(Say You Don’t See)

©Takao Kawaguchi
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Takao Kawaguchi D.D.D.
©Takao Kawaguchi
an overview
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Exposing his own body as a platform for art -- A look at the mixed-media performance art of Takao Kawaguchi
Takao Kawaguchi is a performer who uses his body as his sole medium in collaborations with artists like Fuyuki Yamakawa, known for his creations that utilize medical equipment to isolate bodily functions like the beat of the heart and synchronize them with sound, light and video images in unique forms of expression, and Atsuhiro Ito, who uses a device called “optron” that amplifies the electronic noise of florescent light tubes to create powerful displays of light and sound. In this interview we talk with Kawaguchi about his artistic activities, which include his work as a current member of the legendary 1990s performance/artist group “dumb type.”
(Interviewer: Tatsuro Ishii; interviewed on Aug. 10, 2007 at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media)

As I understand it, you have three faces. First of all, you have been a member since 2006 of the performance artist group “dumb type” that created a sensation on Japan’s art scene in the 90s. Second—and this is something that I think many people don’t know—you were the director of the Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival until several years ago. Thirdly, you have a presence in the Japanese contemporary dance, creating highly innovative performance art works in collaboration with a variety of artists from different fields. In this interview we would like you to talk about the first and the third topics.
Before you became a member of dumb type, you were involved in a number of unique activities from the 1980s. Could you tell us how you came to use your body as an expressive medium for art?

When I trace things back to my childhood, I played the lead part in our kindergarten play Kobutori Jiisan and in elementary school I was the conductor for the class concert. Then in middle school I was involved in the theater club and in high school I won the top prize in the costume parade contest at our sports festival dressed as Alice of Alice in Wonderland (laughs). In short I was a child who always stood out and enjoyed being in the limelight.
In my senior year of high school I spent a year in the US as an exchange student. There I ended up doing a musical with the kids there, and before I knew it I had fallen in love with theater and musicals.
At university I majored in Spanish and was in a club that did Spanish-language plays and performed in Spanish as an actor in a number of plays including Garcia Lorca’s Yerma.

I had known that you were good at languages, but I didn’t know that you had majored in a foreign language.
When I was in university, one of my part-time jobs was to do listings and write recommendations for performing arts for the English monthly magazine called Tokyo Journal. I continued that job for about ten years and it was the time in the 1980s when a lot of foreign artists and companies started coming to Japan. There were such a rich variety of things going on. I was able to combine work and my own interests and see a lot of performances in theater and dance, regardless of genre. Among the many performances I saw during those years, one that left the deepest impression on me was Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring and Café Müller in 1986.
As for my own activities, I continued to do Spanish plays at the university, but that wasn’t enough for me. In my junior year I took part in a movement theater workshop. There I learned a type of movement theater called “mime” in French based on pantomime from a theater company leader named Mamoru Nishimori who had studied and worked for the company Théâtre de La Mandragore in Paris. It was so interesting that I decided to enter the company’s training course, and after two years I was able to perform in the company productions. The performances that company did were based more on physical movements rather than words or scripts. It was an abstract kind of expression that sought new possibilities in the techniques of pantomime as part of the analysis of use of the body in theater. I continued working in that company even after I graduated from university.
Back in those days there was a performance art festival called the Hinoemata Performance Festival in the remote village of Hinoemata at the entrance to the Oze natural park area of Fukushima Prefecture, and I was given a chance to perform as a dancer in the work of Roku Hasegawa, and danced with Roku herself and Kota Yamazaki [contemporary dancer] with the experimental music of Kazue Mizushima [the “Stringraphy” artist/composerwho currently known for her works with silk threads crisscross a large space, using the whole things as an musical intrument] and . The Festival in those days gathered a lot of avant-garde artists working in ways that transcended the conventional boundaries between artistic genres. They were people incuding Shigeyuki Toshima of Molecular Theatre, the experimental film artist Takahiko Iimura and the performer Goji Hamada as well as many butoh artists. You could say that I got an interesting initiation into the world of performing arts through that festival.
During that same period, I was attending the workshops of the contemporary dance Saburo Teshigawara and Mika Kurosawa. I went to the classeds of Kurosawa for about half a year at her Tsunashima Studio and even performed in her work series Eve and/or eve.

When did you begin doing your own works, and what kind of works were they?
The first was a work based on Tennessee William’s Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen I did at the Nakano Terpsichore theater in June of 1988. I wrote the script and directed and performed in it, and the music was by Mizushima again. It wasn’t an attempt at realism theater but a freely arranged, uniquely conceived work of performance. I deconstructed and rearranged the script, used abstract movements and a unique vocalization method. I think that this became the base of what I still pursue today.
Out of a desire to study Spanish theater, I went to Barcelona on a Spanish government scholarship for a year beginning in September of 1988. But because I could not catch up with the graduate school level of the courses I took there, I spent most of my time going to theater performances instead.
Besides Spanish plays I also went to see performances of La Fura Dels Baus and other avant-garde stuff including the Russian experimental theater. I also saw the Belgian company Rosas’ production Ottone, Ottone. I also took part in experimental theater company workshops, and since Barcelona was open to for new arts, I really loved it and enjoyed it.
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