Kyoto experiment calls for “unheard voices”

In these times of pandemic, the digital tools that connect people without travel have, by necessity, led our voices to take precedence over our bodies. Fewer fields have felt the effects of this disembodiment more acutely than the performing arts.

In Japan, as in many parts of the world, theaters still struggle to find funding, facilitate live productions, organize rehearsals, run awareness programs and carry out the many activities that make up community art form.

Despite these setbacks, the Kyoto Experiment (KEX) performing arts festival continues its October program. With the pandemic as a backdrop and social distancing still in effect, the theme of its 12th edition is “moshi moshi ?! a common expression used to answer the phone in Japan. Moshi moshi is often translated as “hello”, although it can also mean “excuse me” when calling someone remotely. In both cases, the utterance acoustically signals the presence of a person, while the rest of the body remains hidden.

The theme was chosen by the three KEX directors – Yoko Kawasaki, Yuya Tsukahara and Juliet Reiko Knapp – to invite participants to reflect on the voices at work in the festival program and in the world today. In their common program message, the directors urge audiences to pay attention to “inaudible voices, be it the inner voice, voices of the past and future, non-human voices, or the relationships between voices. and the body or the collective voice and the body. “

This is the second iteration of KEX managed by the trio; the first took place in February this year, a 2020 release that was delayed for four months due to the pandemic. This edition featured three new festival programs including Super Knowledge for the Future, an idea exchange program; Kansai Studies, a research program; and Shows, a performance program.

This also highlighted the concern for the conservation of the trio for the locality. “We tried to focus on our locality, on what it means to have a festival in Kyoto and more broadly in the Kansai region,” says Knapp. “We received many positive comments from the public who said they felt the locality was reflected in the program. “

Much of the February event took place online and was generally well received. However, as Knapp points out, the KEX team struggled to create real connections between the organizers, artists and attendees: “When everything is live you go to the venue, you can see the audience and it. there is more interaction there. Whereas with online audiences, although there is a chat feature, they are quite anonymous.

In contrast, the October edition of KEX, which started on Friday and will run through October 24, takes place almost entirely live in indoor and outdoor venues around Kyoto. The directors, however, do not intend to present a festival that is “business as usual”. Instead, the effects of the pandemic on performing arts, particularly voice, are roughly outlined in a program with nine shows, nine lectures, and a report from the Kansai Studies research project, which explored history. of the region through savory. okonomiyaki Crepes.

True to the theme of exploring different types of voices and communication, Indonesian musician Rully Shabara, in collaboration with director Jun Tsutsui, local Kyoto artists and experimental pop group Tenniscoats, will present an improvisational musical event titled “Raung Jagat: Drone of Colors.” Unable to travel due to strict border restrictions, Shabara created the play remotely from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, using his improvised chorus system powered by artificial intelligence. jam sessions, during which the singers will perform without a conductor, will take place on October 9 and 10.

Later this month, French director Philippe Quesne will present a reworked version of his 2016 play, “The Moles”. In the satirical live performance, staged with longtime KEX artist group and contributors Contact Gonzo from Osaka, the actors don life-size mole costumes to create a playful and provocative animal-centric world. As moles and the audience interact without using speech, it becomes clear that the moles way of life is similar to that of humanity, challenging anthropocentrism. Then there will be screenings of Quesne’s play, “Crash Park: The Life of an Island”.

Part of Chen Tianzhuo’s large-scale installation, “The Shepherd,” is based on his 2021 performance film, “The Dust,” which was filmed in the Tibet Autonomous Region. | REN XINGXING

Meanwhile, Chinese artist Chen Tianzhuo, known for his visually striking video works that transcend media and performance boundaries, has created a new exhibition called “The Shepherd,” which will be on display for most of the month. The large-scale installation, described in the KEX program as a work “where mystical religious ritual meets rave,” merges elements of Chen’s past works such as “Ishvara” and “An Atypical Brain Damage” with his film by performance 2021, “The Dust. This latest project, which involves no humans, explores ritual and worship focusing on agricultural implements and ceremonial objects filmed in the remote village of Cuogao as well as the Damu Temple in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Two of the works in this edition of KEX take place outdoors. The first is a new collaborative piece called “Moshimoshi City”, which invites festival-goers to “switch off and go out” to explore Kyoto. Armed with headphones and a map, participants make their way to designated sites where they can enrich their surroundings with the sounds of fictional performance pieces by artists, including playwright and director Toshiki Okada, dancer Ayaka Nakama. and filmmaker Takuya Murakawa.

The second outdoor work is a sound installation titled “Soundtrack for Midnight Tamuro,” by Kyoto-based artist and sound designer Masamitsu Araki. For this piece, which runs until October 3, Araki installed custom sound systems and digital artwork in various cars to create a “car audio orchestra” in a parking lot at the top of Mount Hiei, located on the border between Kyoto and Shiga. prefectures. Near the Araki site is Hieizan Enryakuji, a Tendai Buddhist temple erected during the Heian period (794-1185). Takahiko Kameyama, researcher at Ryukoku University, will give a talk at ROHM Theater Kyoto on the intersections between Heian Buddhism and contemporary culture as part of the Super Knowledge for the Future program.

Another notable inclusion in the talk series portion of the festival is “Voice of Void,” an exhibition by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen that was produced in collaboration with the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media. Using video and virtual reality, Ho revisits a panel discussion of four philosophers from the “Kyoto School” that took place a few days before the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Kyoto School was a loose group of Japanese thinkers who revolved around Kitaro. Nishida (1870-1945) and sought to separate East Asian philosophical traditions from those of the West. The group has been criticized for its alleged support for government ideology during World War II. There will be two lectures in the Super Knowledge for the Future program dedicated to the Ho Exhibition and the Kyoto School.

As this year’s KEX program shows, the festival promises to shed critical light on the relationship between voice, stage and pandemic while continuing to address issues of locality, cross-border collaborative practice and performance in Asia.

Kyoto Experiment takes place at various venues in Kyoto from October 5-24. For more information, visit

In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is urging residents and visitors to exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, concert halls and other public spaces.

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