YOSHIKO CHUMA, ARTISTIC STATEMENT
Chuma grew up in Japan the 1960’s, twenty years after the second World
War was an influence and still is now. She spent her first twenty years
in Japan before coming to New York where she worked as a choreographer
and performer since 1979. She says, “When I was little there was the
Cold War emerging, and there was always one war underway; in Korea,
Indochina, and Vietnam…We are losing so many witnesses. I want to
explore what my mother’s generation has witnessed; the conversion to
modernism in Japan, the War, the post-war period, the growth of Japan
after the Tokyo Olympics in the sixties. My generation saw quite a lot
of that change. Young people, 25-40 years old, have not seen that much
dramatic change in Japan. It is different for them than for young people
in Eastern Europe, Mideast, and South America, who have seen enormous
changes in the past 15 years.”
wants to closely examine the experience of generations and then “zoom
out” and take a wider version. She will explore the tragedy and the
comedy of individuals, to relate the individual to space, country,
politics, and economy.
“I’ve always been interested in how the United States
influences the third world. When I was a teenager, I watched Perry Mason, To Tell The Truth, and I Love
Lucy on the TV in my living room. Now, I fly to Colombia on Avianca and see
reruns of Mad Men. I was a young
adult during the Vietnam War, and now I see the US in Afghanistan. It has been
over 60 years since WWII, but Japan still smells of occupation, as though it is
a US colony. The United States is my home, but the country’s aggressive
influence over the world intrigues me artistically.
In the sixties and early seventies there was a growing
number of anti-American and anti-war demonstrations in Japan. I was swept up in
this sentiment and attended and ultimately led a number of demonstrations. A
demonstration is like a “production”, and this was truly where I received my
artistic training. I was not the type to stand in front of the microphone and
rally the crowd, so I did the publicity papers for the demonstrations. I was a
silent agitator. I am still an agitator, both silent and not so silent. Art can
be revolutionary, but is not always. Art must be guided, and there are limits.
I can organize people in space, but it’s hard to organize people in life.
I am attracted to the ordinary existence of humanity, how it
transcends culture and how it is impervious to the threat of annihilation. The
images of conflict from my youth left an indelible impression on my psyche and
are a recurring theme in my work, but I am always seeking intellectual and
sensorial interaction through integration.
When I perform in a foreign community, I incorporate
professional and non-professional local artists into my company. The benefit
for the local performer is obvious, but my company members are enriched as well
because a local voice transforms the performance experience significantly. As
an example, in Pi=3.14... Ramallah, Fukushima,
Bogota, my collaborators from Ramallah, Palestine, Fukushima, Japan, and
Bogota, Colombia are onstage. This is vital to this project. How can their mere
presence alter the construction of the work? Without them, we are trying to
learn in a cultural and historical vacuum. I place cultural context literally
in my work. I place it onstage in front of the audience.
My work has been called “choreographed chaos”. I have
intentionally avoided presenting an ordered universe in my work because I don’t
see an ordered universe in my own life. I don’t usually think of myself as a
choreographer. Sometimes I think of myself as a counterpoint composer, pitting
note against note, placing several singular voices in parallel motion, creating
a new harmony. Sometimes I still consider myself a journalist because my work
tends to begin with an outside point of view. I’m interested in the little
personal issues of everyday life and how they can affect survival. It is a
struggle for me to expand my concepts into something larger that an audience
can share. I am always looking for a twist or a variance. Some people have
called my work “spectacle”, but I don’t think in these terms. “Organized
happening” is a term that might better suit me.
My artistic concerns
are individuality, integration, and reinvention.
I have never set movement on a body, or created dance by
making choreography in advance that I ask a dancer to perform. I have never
transformed movement from my body to another body. I have always allowed
artists to retain their individual existence and ask them to look inside
themselves and at their surroundings to find a different path of expression.
Dance can be at any time and in any space, and anyone can do it. My work is not
easy to understand and my process can seem haphazard. I am extremely demanding
as a director. In my performances I want there to be an awareness of the
audience within each performer. If I were in Ireland, Macedonia, United States,
or Bogota, I want the artists to simply be aware of who they are and where they
are. I am constantly reinventing my work because the artistic process is vital
to me, and is more important to me than the product. I hope the process will
come through in the final performance when it comes in front of an audience. If
I am honest with myself, and with the artists, our process will show.
It is difficult for me to think it terms of goals or dreams.
The systems for communication and sense of time have changed so rapidly in my
lifetime, and reality is constantly shifting. Since September 11th
it has become uncomfortable to cling to large ideas in the future. I can only
be confident in my persistent curiosity and uncontrollable imagination. I am
excited because I had two hundred underwater photos taken of some of my
dancers. I would like to make a piece using slides of these photos as a moving
image or as part of the choreography.
I want to continue to develop and expand Pi=3.14…Ramallah, Fukushima, Bogota, a “snowball”
series of works about the pre-formulated cultural issues that make up an
individual identity and agenda. There is a basic structure to the show,
including the use of local language and folklore and a metaphor for one’s
relation to culture. With each incarnation of that work, I take an element and
a dancer with me, and slowly the work is amassing a multi-cultural cast and