Excerpt from A Body in Places Conversation
March 22, 2016
In January 2015, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) hosted a public conversation between Eiko and Trajal Harrell, moderated by Sam Miller, as a part of Trajal’s two-year Annenberg Research Commission Residency. Trajal’s residency included an exploration of the history of Butoh, a postwar Japanese dance form, and the life and work of Japanese choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata (1928–86), a Butoh pioneer. In October 2015, Eiko, Trajal and Sam regrouped to continue their conversation at the Danspace Project offices in the East Village.
TRAJAL: I was wondering, with this idea of A Body in Places—is there a difference between a place and a site? What is the significance of place?
EIKO: I like to use junior high school English. I always have been consistent on that policy, so I am not excluding people with a title. “Place” is junior high school English. “Site” is a little more elevated of an idea. “Meat shop” is a place. “Hospital” is a place. You can use a hospital as a site but then you are bringing in a different notion from contemporary dance. Whereas I am going to the hospital as a hospital.
TRAJAL: It’s A Body in Places and not Place? It’s funny because this other thing, body in place, is almost the opposite. There’s a potential that you make the body in place unstatic too.
EIKO: I don’t think I understand this.
TRAJAL: It’s not stable, it’s not static, it’s not in one place. But the body in place could be a wandering body, could be a body that’s transforming. I think that what you are doing could redefine this idea of the body in places as a static and stable position.
EIKO: By going to different places, I’m also interested in how I become the common factor. Between the hospital and the station, I’m the same person, so I become the thing that moves and discovers. My body is that commonality. It’s revealing in a way, that I have been traveling all my life. The U.S. is not my country and I’m still commuting to and from different places. So this is what I want to do right now.