There is a safe bet that attending a performance at REDCAT, CalArts’ Downtown Center for Contemporary Arts, one will see an artist’s work that one might not have a chance to see anywhere else in Los Angeles. Such was the case this past Thursday when I had the rare opportunity to see FRUITS BORNE OUT OF RUST, a multimedia performance artwork conceived and directed by Tabaimo and choreographed by Maki Morishita, two contemporary Japanese artists. It was also exciting to experience the extremely versatile Japanese dance artist Chiharu Mamiya who heads her own company ELBISSOP in the south of France.
As we entered the theater, Tabaimo was drawing a tilting cake topped with strawberries (one strawberry falling) and a white dove in flight on a white board up center stage. Once she finished, Tabaimo wrote out the title of the work, Fruits Borne Out of Rust, and went to sit next to her visual equipment. In walks a man and unceremoniously erases Tabaimo’s artwork.
The white board became a screen with dancer Mamiya’s upper body projected as a shadow on the board and her actual legs revealed below. Via excellent timing, the two work in tandem to appear as one attached being and then move in opposite directions. When Mamiya suddenly spins the board, we see a brief image of a dove flying by and the entire background shifts.
Tabaimo’s video installations have been exhibited around the world. In Fruits Borne Out of Dust, she incorporated the live artist (Chiharu Mamiya), projected images, animated drawings and exquisite physical and technical timing to create wonderful thought-provoking illusions. Mamiya lies on the floor beneath a projected upside-down bedroom while an unseen entity shifts positions beneath the bed covers. The bed morphed and disappeared and wooden floorboards appeared. When one of the floorboards broke loose and fell away, Mamiya crawled beneath the animated floor and disappeared.
The white board was next a window with a side that slid open to reveal a dove flying by. When Mamiya unraveled threads from the white shorts and blouse she was first seen in, it became a lovely white dress that moved beautifully during her extraordinary solo which showcased her dance and acting abilities.
We saw Mamiya inside a large bird cage with the reoccurring white dove. They moved around each, she danced primarily in place as the dove flew from perch to perch around her. This came to an end when a large disembodied hand appeared and opened the cage’s door for Mamiya and the bird to escape.
A curtain backdrop provided the surface for the projections to be utilized, for Mamiya to disappear into, and for the two composer/musicians Yusuke Awazu and Keisuke Tanaka to be periodically seen through as they performed various styles of music that ranged from jazz to rock to electronic music reminiscent of Philip Glass. Mamiya performed in front of the curtain as animated scribbles open up spaces in the curtain, allowing the two musicians to be viewed performing behind it.
Mamiya’s talents were extended as she appeared in a multicolored leotard with a similarly painted hood and entertained us with humorous short stories that she told in three languages: Japanese, French and English. As she did so, an animated theater curtain opens and closes to reveal different images before it formed what appeared to be an internal view of a vagina with periodic emissions of white fluid.
Lying on her back, her arms and legs created large dancing shadows on the curtain before she disappeared again to change costumes and reappear to perform an in place solo surrounded by moving bare thin tree branches or plant roots; take your pick – the effect was the same. The Philip Glass style music grew in volume and intensity before climaxing and the roots/branches burst into flower to reveal Fruits Borne Out of Rust.
This work was truly magical, and even though one eventually figured out how it was done, it was entertaining and wise. Japanese traditions of theater and performance joined modern day technology and worldwide sensibilities.
Part of the Director’s note has remained with me. “From instability, stability is born. Then, when that stability loses its balance, an unstable state is born again. Though it may look as though the cycle is going around and around, it is actually progressing little by little until the fruits of this cycle are born.” It is the cycle of life.
Morishita’s choreography strongly highlighted Mamiya’s talents and Tabaimo’s artistry and videography showed her acute timing abilities. This work definitely took a well-rehearsed team of people and everyone rose to the occasion. They included amazing lighting by Asako Miura, wonderful sound design by Yuji Tsutsumida and perfect stage managing by Takashi Kawachi.
Fruits Borne Out of Rust was breathtaking but I was ready for it to end several minutes before it did. Some editing of sections would help alter this. The live music was a much-appreciated addition although a few of the works felt indicative of other composers.
I look forward to seeing more of Tabaimo and Maki Morishita’s work.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, February 23, 2020.
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Featured image: Tabaimo & Maki Morishita: Fruit Borne Out of Rust – Photo by Bozzo courtesy of REDCAT (CalArts)