The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Berlin’s HAU as an epicenter of the performing arts — What’s the ideas behind its aim to “Create friction in the world?”
Berlin’s HAU as an epicenter of the performing arts — What’s the ideas behind its aim to “Create friction in the world?”
Do you have a network or particularly strong ties with other European theaters?
We have ties with the KunstenFestivaldesArts and the Kaai Theater in Brussels, Theater Frascati in Amsterdam, the Theater Rozmaitosci in Warsaw, the Nowi Theater in Moscow, and in New York, we have Performance Space 122 in New York and in Tokyo, Festival/Tokyo and others.

In October, you will have a Japan feature scheduled and this is your third visit to Japan for that.
We have gotten funding from Berlin State for a Japan Festival within the framework of the Asia Pacific Week 2009. I am here in Japan to do research for that. Seeing Festival/Tokyo and the Tokyo Performing Arts Market, I realized that young theater people here seem to be experimenting with new things. I suspect that in the last few years they have come in contact with theater scenes outside of Japan and have been stimulated in ways that have broadened their perspective and sense of theater. The young theater people’s works deal with street culture and sex almost to an extreme. One of these is a pop work by the young performer group Fai Fai. It asks questions like can’t a price be set on the body and the value of sex in this globalized world. While recognizing the treat of having a price set on the body, it also wants to show the naked body. It portrays Shibuya, techno culture, sex robots and the commercialization of sexuality.
 The work Love’s Whirlpool by the Potudo-ru company is a play telling a story about group of men and women at a secret club and giving the audience a peek at a world of orgiastic behavior. It portrays society’s obsession with sex as a form of terror against sexuality. While on the one hand it shows a hard reality in which there is a clear division of sex and love, on the other hand it brings to mind images of Bruegel paintings, like a scene from the Middle Ages with bodies piled on top of each other. Furthermore, it deals with individual action regarding the approach to love and sex. What was intended to be purely sex ends up evoking feelings close to love, and jealousy. It was very interesting to watch, like a section cut straight out of the Shinjuku nightlife.
 Like last year, we will be inviting Toshiki Okada and his Chelfitsch company again this year. I think he is one of the most important directors in Japan today. His work Air Conditioner is a story about two people working in an office where the air-conditioning is always on too strong and the two gradually draw close to each other with dance-like movement. If this can be seen as another form of sexuality, then I think the suggestion I made half jokingly before the start of this interview that one title possibility for our Japan feature might be “Sex and the City” isn’t actually too far off.
 Also, amidst the background of the realities of Japanese society and the issue of the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, I got the impression that a small but significant movement of social commitment is occurring. For example, there is the “Amateur Rebellion” of Hajime Matsumoto. He runs a shop that repairs and sells second-hand household appliances in Koenji and I had the opportunity to meet him and hear about his anti-consumerism “Amateur Revolution” movement. He is someone who is trying not simply to keep rising prices down but to search for new values outside the framework of consumerism and liberal economics. I am thinking of inviting him to our feature and having him participate in a dialogue with the German philosopher Guillaume Paoli. Paoli is promoting the concept of “happy unemployment” and criticizing the idea of constant development of labor. I also want to have the music and literary critic Atsushi Sasaki come and talk about his vision of cultural development from the 1990s to the present. He speaks of the ’90s as a decade trapped between the death of the Showa era and Nostradamus prophecies. This is a view that you won’t find often in the West.
 I also saw the video Super Rat by the artist group Chim-Pom. It is about catching the rats that feed on the garbage of Shibuya and stuff them to make dolls the animation character Pikachu. All of this, the pop culture, the Shinjuku-Shibuya-Koenji settings and the sexual obsessions are things born of the unique metropolis that is Tokyo.

Does this mean that your Japan feature will be an attempt to bring the expressions of the images and phenomena of Tokyo to the stage?
We put them all on the stage. And then we think about what we do when we have no more money for consumption. Wouldn’t it be a fine party of desperation? We have no money but still we dance. And I am also thinking that maybe we can connect Berlin and Tokyo through a bond of electronic music.

It may be a question out of the blue, but can I ask you why you are doing theater?
I don’t know. I don’t know the answer myself. It just happened this way.

What do you think you have gained and achieved by doing theater?
I haven’t gained anything. If there were anything, it would only be that to some small degree I have opened the theater to the immigrant population and got them to come to the theater a few times. I can say with certainty that they have been given the opportunity to encounter art in a broad sense. Or, by showing the near-sighted German audience something of the things that are happening outside their world, we may have succeeded in opening the possibilities for internationalization. That’s about all. I don’t think that art can change society or the cities anymore. Thinking that it can is nothing but a dream.

But you will still keep doing it, won’t you?
Of course.

For the sake of world revolution?
It is true that I have sought to resist the realities of society in the past and it is still an important thing for me. But for me world revolution sometimes means doing an art project.
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