The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Norimizu Ameya
Norimizu Ameya
Born in 1961. Norimizu Ameya joined one of the major troupes of the Underground Theatre Movement in Japan, Juro Kara’s Jokyo Gekijo in 1978, where he was in charge of the sound. In 1984 he formed the “Tokyo Grand Guignol,” rendering him cult popularity. In 1987, he founded [M.M.M.], a company working intensively on the relationship between mechanical apparatus and the human body. With the “SKIN” series, they established a cyberpunk scenic expression. After 1990 he left the field of theatre and began to engage himself with visual arts - still proceeding to work on his major topic - the human body - taking up themes like blood transfusion, artificial fertilization, infectious diseases, selective breeding, chemical food, and sex discrimination, creating works as a member of the collaboration unit Technocrat. After participating in the Venice Biennale with “Public Semen” in 1995, he suspended his activities as a visual artist. The same year he opened a pet shop in Higashi-Nakano in Tokyo, breeding and selling various animals. In 1997 he published a book, “Do you know how to live with animals?” (the title was later changed to “Do you know how to live with rare animals?,” when it was printed in paperback), where he not only gives information on the distinctions of, and how to breed rare pets, but also reflects on the co-habitation of humans and animals, based on his own experiences. In 2005, he presented a performance in the exhibition “Vanishing Points,” which marked a restart of his activities in visual arts after a long break. This is a work in which he is locked up in a 1.8 meter large white box. With only a minimum of fresh air and a fluid diet he stayed inside the box for 24 days, where knocking on the walls was his sole communication with the outside world. The artist’s presence was the elementary component of the artwork. In 2007 he directed Oriza Hirata’s Tenkosei (Transfer Student) within the framework of the Shizuoka Performing Arts Center’s (SPAC) “SPAC autumn season 2007,” casting real high school students. The work was also performed at the Festival/Tokyo 09 Spring.
Festival/Tokyo 09 Spring Program
Transfer Student

(Mar. 26 – 29, 2009 at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space-Medium Hall)
Produced by Shizuoka Performing Arts Center (SPAC)
Written by Oriza Hirata
Directed by Norimizu Ameya
Transfer Student
Transfer Student
Transfer Student
Photo: Jun Ishikawa
an overview
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Norimizu Ameya, an artist who directs stages with a strong degree of reality  
Norimizu Ameya, an artist who directs stages with a strong degree of reality  
Norimizu Ameya emerged in the 1970s as the leader of “Tokyo Grand Guignol,” a group that won a cult-like following. After that, from the 1980s into the late ’90s, he was active in different areas, such as contemporary art and running a pet shop, and then suddenly moved to a home in Tsukuba [outside of Tokyo] and withdrew from those scenes and remained for a while in quiet seclusion. Then he emerged again dramatically in the summer of 2005 to do an exhibition on the theme of “disappearance” in which he shut himself up in a box in a gallery for 24 days without coming out once, in a work called バ  ング  ント (as Va     ng    nts in which the blank spaces create “vanishing points” when filled in). He also answered the invitation from musician Yoshihide Otomo to perform live music and improvisation sessions frequently, and in 2007 he returned to the world of theater to direct Oriza Hirata’s play Tenkosei (Transfer Student). He has also drawn attention by directing a production of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis for Festival/Tokyo in the autumn of 2009. We spoke with Ameya about his approach to creative activities that involves a unique lifestyle-as-art attitude in which he embodies a “full-body director” who uses his own body as a platform to connect all forms of artistic expression in a highly natural way.
(Interviewer: Art Kuramochi)

In February of 2009, the New York based musician and photographer Aki Onda had his first Japan concert in three years. At that time, you suddenly joined in the session with Onda and khoomei vocalist and performer Fuyuki Yamakawa, and I was impressed by the way you used a variety of different methods to create sound between the stage and the audience, as if you were directing the live session itself. Before you launched the Tokyo Grand Guignol theater company, you were in charge of music for the Jokyo Gekijo company, and you also worked with a number of musicians in the 1990s. So, it clearly appears that sound (music) is a very important part of your artistic expression. Could we ask you to begin by talking about thoughts on music and your approach to sound itself, and what kinds of music you normally listen to?
I don’t listen to music much at all. I don’t listen to CDs at all. I don’t even have a CD player. When I listen to music it is only on YouTube. Sometimes I create the sound for my performances on YouTube as well. For example, I created the sound for the HARAJUKU PERFORMANCE PLUS SPECIAL performance I did with Yamakawa on YouTube. The concept was a “cover band” (a band that performs covers of other people’s songs), so I picked out a number of pieces on YouTube and sent the links by email to Yamakawa and said, “Will you sing these for me?” (Laughs) And I sent the YouTube address for a video clip of Nico singing with Velvet Underground to the home of the boy (Takumi Lavernhe) who performed with us and a message to his mother to have her son memorize the song. That is the way I work often today.

How did you meet Fuyuki Yamakawa?
I often take walks, and one day when I was walking on the street in Shin-Okubo, there came Yamakawa and Onda walking down the same street toward me. I think that was the first time I ever really talked to him. Before that I had gone to see Yamakawa’s exhibit “The Voice Over” and maybe exchanged a few words of greeting, but that was all. For our “HARAJUKU” collaboration, the offer came originally from the producer Yasuo Ozawa (Representative of the Japan Performance/Art Institute), who said he wanted the two of us to do something together.

For the HARAJUKU performance, Yamakawa, you, actor Kyusaku Shimada and young Lavernhe formed a band. The performance was somewhere between theater and music. It was a very unique band, with Yamakawa’s amplified heartbeat and khoomei style vocals, you doing drums while drawing blood from your body and Lavernhe reading recitations.
It began with just the pun of an idea to wear UNDERCOVER clothing and perform as a cover band, and as for the question of what music we should cover, the video of Iggy Pop performing that was playing at the UNDERCOVER shop looked good, so I thought Iggy Pop and others of that time might be a good choice. But when we got into the actual preparation with Yamakawa we got the feeling that there would be something lacking if there was just the two of us. Starting out in that way, we looked at what we had and thought about improving the balance, which led to the idea that it would be good if there was a child who could join us, and that led to our inviting Takumi Lavernhe to join in. That made us three, but there was still a feeling that the balance wasn’t right, so just about four days before the performances were to start we asked Shimada to join us.

The act of taking blood from your body as you perform is something that you have done in the past as well. What led to that idea?
People have asked me that before, but I don’t really know the answer. It is not something calculated. I just get an image like that suddenly and once I get the image I want to act on it. I am not the type of person who does crazy things, so I do the research and I decide that drawing off a total of about 500 cc of blood in the two days of performances would be all right. Also, if you don’t do it properly there is the danger of the blood clotting, so I studied the proper process involved in drawing blood.

Does extracting blood from your system bring any perceptual or physical changes that you can feel?
In the case of the HARAJUKU performances there were two performances on successive days, and on the second day I did start to feel faint. But since I am only extracting a safe amount, it wouldn’t cause any perceptual problems if it were just one performance. In the past I did a performance where I got a transfusion of blood that had been taken from someone else beforehand. In that case there is always the very slim chance that my body will have a rejection reaction to the blood. During the moments before the reaction does or does not occur there is an element of fear, but once that is past and I’m sure that my body has accepted the donor’s blood, I don’t feel anything. But, when you think about it, that “feeling nothing” is even stranger to me. The fact that you don’t feel anything after a transfusion of blood that was flowing in someone else’s veins until a while ago means that your body has already begun using it. That blood is flowing into the brain and transporting oxygen around your body. The realization that having someone else’s blood circulating through your body occurs so uneventfully makes me surprised and gives me a strange feeling.

In other words, it is interesting to realize that you don’t even notice that you are having your blood taken or that someone else’s blood is flowing in your veins, as long as there is no reaction?
That is part of it, and there is also the fact that when you draw out the blood, this vital fluid that was functioning in your body until that moment is now outside your body and comes to be no longer part of yourself but something that is seen as completely different. That is a strange phenomenon and interesting because of this double meaning. And there is also the realization that, because you are taking the blood within safe limits, this is all the blood that you can draw at one time. If it is from a wound you can lose much more and make a big show of blood, but if you are staying within the limits of safety, this small amount is all you can take. This realization of how small an amount you can actually take safely is another interesting fact.
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