The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Interview
Exposing his own body as a platform for art -- A look at the mixed-media performance art of Takao Kawaguchi
Takao Kawaguchi Di Que No Ves
(Say You Don’t See)

Photo: Daiki Obara

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©Takao Kawaguchi
What kind of activities are you thinking about for dumb type for the future?
To be honest, we don’t know very clearly. We are still touring with Voyage, but we don’t know what may come next. Everybody has his/her own things as well, and there are times when certain members team up to work together. I also presented my own work Sekai no Chushin (The Center of the World) at the Park Tower Next Dance Festival in 2000, and I did Night Colour the following year.

Sekai no Chushin is the work largest in scale that you have done to date . Although I could see some influence from dumb type tt had a unique flavor of your own... It was a work in which you dealt with the theme of your sexuality, bringing in characters like a gay transvestite (drag queen) walking around dragginging the train of a gaudy dress he wore and a gay porn film actor.
The title, Sekai no Chushin (The Center of the World), is also gaudy, isn’t it? (laughs) The Next Dance Festival offered me a great opportunity to do a work of my own.

This is a festival that aims to discover young talents in contemporary dance. If it were in New York, for instance, there might have been numerous works questioning such issues as sexuality and gender, but not so in Japan yet. Your work was unique in the way that it dealt so directly with these questions, but without becoming too dogmatic. It had a very pop and camp taste instea d, which I thought was very unique in Japan. I am not so sure, however, if others in the audience agreed with me.
There were a lot of women in the audience who were supportive of my work, it was mostly men who couldn’t understand why I had to address the subject of my own sexuality on stage. in my work, talking about myself is essential. My recent works are much more autobiographical and personal than those I did for ATADANCE.

The solo performance Night Colour that you did after Sekai no Chushin was a very beautiful work where you kept an objective stance over your own dance while the movements were very much of your character.
Night Colour is a work that I first created at Grand Theater Groningen in Holland back in March 2001. In dumb type’s Memorandum I have a solo dance scene in which I patchworked random images and movements. I used the same method in Night Colour too. I combined my movements, a minimalistic lighting and music, and some video images in a white square space. Later, I asked Takayuki Fujimo, the lighting designer of dumb type to redesign the lighting using the new LED lights I added some improvements and performed it again. In 2003 I shoed the piece at the Asian Performing Arts Festival in India.

After Night Colour you did the collaborative work D.D.D. with Fuyuki Yamakawa in 2004. I personally believe this to be one of the most outstanding works to be produced in recent years. It was a work where you seemed to be involved in a one-man battle in the limited space on top of a 120 cm x 120 cm table while Yamakawa put out the sound and light of his own heart beat and breathing on stageFirst of all, what doesthe title D.D.D. stand for?
It stands for “Don’t Do Drug!” (Laugh). Well, seriously, it is the sound of the heart. It should be pronounced as “deh, deh, deh” as in French or German. I thought that’s how my heart sounded. In the show, the actual beat of Yamakawa’s heart is amplified.

It is shocking when you come out on stage wearing a full-head mask like in a commercial wrestling match. And like a boxing match, the show has a total of seven rounds, unfolding different scenes of a self-battle on top of that small table. What was the starting point for this work?
In the beginning, I wanted to do a kind of performance in which i would slam my body against a floor or a wall. I was planning to premiere the work at “Super Deluxe”, a club in Roppongi, Tokyo, and coincidentally Yamawakawa was doing a live there, so I went to see it. It was a very powerful show, combining the sound of his own heart, the light bulbswhich flashed in sync with his heart beat, and his own hoomei throat-singing. I was so impressed that I immediately went to him afterwardsthe show and asked him if he wanted to work with me. Yamakawa says he feels his body is the only medium with which he could make the kind of art he could call his own. His actions are always direct and strong.

It doesn’t take a dancer or a musician to just do a body slam, but to make it an artistic expression, I think, is not that easy at all. D.D.D.was a wonderful performance where you two artists united to become one strength. You have toured overseas with this piece and won high acclaim. What do you think is the reason for that acclaim?
It is difficult to say what is good about your own work, but I see D.D.D. as a work that deals with primal desires in a direct way while bringing in pop elements like heavy metal music and Japanese pro-wrestling. That may be why it’s been popular. Yamakawa is a powerful performer and in that sense it is also a battle between the two of us. You could say that while he battles from inside the body I am fighting from the outside.
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