Photos by Masato Okada 1975-2005
October 21.2007 – January 7.2008
@ P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, and MoMA, New York
Conversation / Min Tanaka and Alanna Heiss
(director of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center at this moment)
1) Your performances in the nude earned you a lot of praise, but also caused a lot of controversy – you were expelled from the Modern Dance Association! Did this negative action force you to view dance differently and ultimately lead you to Butoh?
MT–For me dancing has always been a sort of fleeing from the prevailing society.
Decomposing my self, as well. I think one can secure freedom for dance expression only if one can freely move about inside and outside the society. Butoh’s significance has been supported uniquely in this sense since antiquity, I believe.
2) Butoh is as much a mental dance as it is a physical one. It may be accurate to compare the amount of exertion and concentration in your performances to that of an athlete. Have you ever been interested and/or involved in sports?
MT—I was pushed out of the competition among athletes. (MT was a basketball player in college and a candidate for national Olypic team.) My goal is nothing but “death.” The excessiveness and concentration that characterizes myself and my dance is nurtured by my admiration for some of my predecessors, who may be invisible often. The ambition to extend the horizon of a fleeting moment. This may embrace something in common with certain sport activities. Yet, in Butoh, one does not need to expect any remuneration, so to say, nor any goal as attainment.
3) As you may know, we both have farms – I have Roe Farm in Long Island and you have the Body Weather Farm, though yours also serves a dance studio, where Butoh dancers work, practice and live. Tell me more about this farm, and how it came to be.
MT―In 1970’s I was struck with an idea to connect body and weather. This allowed me to make a major leap in terms of my imagination and creative activities. Body weather and farming became reality in 1980’s in words as well as in terms of the way we live. Body, weather and farm—these are primordial terms. But at the same time, at the present moment, don’t they also imply a very future-looking direction for humanity? I think that those who offer themselves to Butoh—I don’t mean dancers in general—are capable of accepting and perceiving pain and joy in the same instance. A long, very long discussion may be required between Butoh practitioners and dancers.
4) The beautiful photographs in the exhibition, Min Tanaka: Photos from 1975-2006 depict your dances in some very interesting places – including a glacier! You once said “I do not dance in the place, I dance the place”. Do you make conscious choices about location, or does its energy draw you to it?
MT—Once I was just standing still in front of a glacier, but unfortunately the photographer Okada was not there with me. Place is where I am able to stare at my own corpse. That is why (Thanks to this formula, ) I can dance.
Molecules that produce energy are tempted to dance thanks to the interaction between subterrainian (spelling?) magma and life on earth, I am just there, caught in the exchange.
5) We’re all very excited that you’ll be performing again at P.S.1, debuting your new Locus Focus series in New York. Can you tell me more about it and how it differs from your previous work? How does P.S.1 inspire you?
MT—All my tools and instruments are inside my body. Materials of my materials are also there. My work, when finished, leaves nothing behind. To let dance arise between one body and another—nothing more nor less. And I am currently looking for the only place that accommodates this act inside the body. Nothing has changed, but everything has changed. I stay with ever-changing life, and I will leave nothing behind.
Let me ask—what inspiration—if any—do you think I signify for P.S.1?
(September 22, 2007, Jakarta. I am moving on to Kalimantan now.)