Yasuko Yokoshi: Notes on ZERO ONE
October 19, 2015https://vimeo.com/81017349
The video for ZERO ONE features three Japanese performance artists: Hangman Takuzo, Mika Kurosawa and Namiko Kawamura.
67-year old Hangman Takuzo lives in Tokyo. Over the past 14 years, he has been presenting a “garden theater” at his house. In this micro-world Takuzo suspends himself from a tree for about ten minutes each day during an hour-long ritual performance.
Both by choice and his pride, Takuzo’s live performances rarely had an audience when I met him. Rain or shine, the performance takes place. In fact, the day I saw him hang for the first time was in early September of 2009. A typhoon was approaching Tokyo, and Takuzo mentioned no possibility of cancellation so predictably I was the only audience member.
His partner in real life, my old friend Mika Kurosawa, is revered as the “Godmother of Japanese Contemporary Dance.” I met Mika in 1996 at a dance festival in Korea. She presented her solo dance which remains in me as one of the best solo performances I have ever encountered.
For me Mika’s presence in Hangman Takuzo’s life actually grounds it to the weight of the human body, both viscerally and psychologically, in contrast to Takuzo, a man whose nature prefers to float. The movie is a simple love story of a man and a woman, showing the strong bond between two people cemented through body and expression.
In addition, Namiko Kawamura, a 74-year old performance artist joins the two. Active in the Japanese underground since 1974, her outdoor performance art is known as “Zenshin-hoko” and translates into English as “walking forward naked.” She has performed outside by the sea, inside a gymnasium and journeyed into a variety of natural settings over the course of 35 years. The act of being naked in public is synonymous with contemporary art in Japan and an easy way to provoke or appear to be taking a risk. The significance of Namiko Kawamura’s nudity is her deep deliberation and consciousness.
The film was shot on location on Osaki Island in Japan. The island is located off the coast of Takehara city in Hiroshima where I was born. Osaki Island has always been a special place for me. One reason is that my mother was born and grew up on this island; the other is that my grandfather, two uncles and one aunt disappeared into the Setouchi Sea off the coast of the Osaki Island during a boating accident half a century ago.
Twice a year on Buddhist holidays, we visit Osaki island by ferry to pay our respects at the empty family tomb; their bodies were never discovered. A small old house where my grandparents once lived remains. There’s a small garden attached to the house where several lemon and tangerine trees stand tall and strong. Every spring, the entire garden turns yellow, and in winter bright orange, all under the beautiful sunlight reflecting off the Setouchi Sea. Incidentally, this is the same sea that Yasujiro Ozu once adored while filming “Tokyo Story.”
The Japanese glass doors facing the garden of my grandparents’ house trace the transformation of a magical play of shadows throughout the day. I chose this location for making the film precisely for its cinematic beauty.
After bringing these three idiosyncratic and extraordinary artists to Osaki Island, we filmed indoors, outside the house, in the garden, on the beach, and in the bamboo bush. Shooting took place in January and May 2010 in Tokyo and in April 2010 in Hiroshima. The images capture the naked and powerful presence of the performers, against the backdrop of the island’s landscape and the architecture of the house.
The film “Hangman Takuzo” will be screened in its entirety on September 27 as part of Cathy Weis Projects’ Sundays on Broadway series.
Yasuko Yokoshi’s ZERO ONE, featuring video of the artists described above, runs Thursday-Saturday at Danspace Project.