This conversation now lives permanently on our journal. WATCH HERE
Moderated by Judy Hussie-Taylor
The foundation of this conversation between Eiko Otake and Joan Jonas finds these celebrated artists forming a generative and collaborative new friendship. The two discuss the mutual influence of Japanese theater, dance, and literature on their work as they offer insight into making new work and connections in the maturity of their careers.
Both artists have long histories of creating work that engages deeply with site and experiments with viewership; how the work is experienced and how the viewer experiences themselves within it—the performance or audience might be placed outside, observing from a long distance, or within a very small grouping—configurations of presentation that pose hopeful possibilities for future works in this unprecedented time of physical distance.
Initiated in 2011 by Judy Hussie-Taylor and Jenn Joy, Conversations Without Walls (CWW) are long-form, Saturday afternoon, roundtable discussions that provide context and insight into the work of Danspace Project’s artists and Platforms. The nearly decade-long series facilitates intergenerational conversations between writers, scholars, choreographers, and audiences. In this time when our physical doors remain closed and in person gathering is limited we are reimagining the CWW series as a digital program. Each episode of the CWW digital series will be broadcast live on YouTube and ultimately archived for the public on the Danspace Project online Journal.
This conversation was recorded in May 2020, but only days after the program was slated to launch, George Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Danspace Project postponed the release of this pre-recorded conversation to prioritize urgent action in direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement and to address issues of equity and anti-racism within the organization. This work continues and informs.
Since this conversation, both artists have been reflecting on the continuing pandemic and the movement for Black lives. Read some of their offerings here:
June 9. A funeral for Mr. Floyd is held today. I danced in my mother’s house. I moved thinking of you, mourning you.
6000 miles away from Minneapolis. I tried to make the distance malleable.
6700 miles away from Houston. I heard eulogies.
6780 miles away from New York, my home and friends. I heard your voices on the streets, loud and clear, despite the pandemic. I moved thinking of you.
(Excerpt from Thinking of You, Eiko Otake)
Looking at the past. Do things change?
We hear the voice of George Floyd
I hear the voices outside my window
We must change.
Love from Joan
(Excerpt from MoMA’s Performing at a Distance Project, Joan Jonas)
Joan Jonas is a world-renowned artist whose work encompasses a wide range of media including video, performance, installation, sound, text, and sculpture. Joan’s experiments and productions in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s continue to be crucial to the development of many contemporary art genres, from performance and video to conceptual art and theatre. Since 1968, her practice has explored ways of seeing, the rhythms of rituals, and the authority of objects and gestures. Joan has exhibited, screened, and performed her work at museums, galleries, and in large scale group exhibitions throughout the world. She has recently presented solo exhibitions at Hangar Bicocca, Milan; NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore; the United States Pavilion for the 56th edition of the Venice Biennial; Tate Modern, London; TBA21 Ocean Space at the San Lorenzo Church, Venice; and Serralves Museum, Porto. In 2018, she was awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize, presented to those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind.
Raised in Japan and a resident of New York since 1976, Eiko Otake is a movement–based, interdisciplinary artist. She worked for more than 40 years as Eiko & Koma, but since 2014 has been working on her own projects. Eiko & Koma created numerous performance works, exhibitions, durational “living” installations, and media works commissioned by institutions such as American Dance Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival, the Whitney Museum, the Walker Art Center, and MoMA. Eiko has performed her solo project, A Body in Places, at over 40 sites including a month-long Danspace Project Platform (2016) and three full-day performances at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2017). Currently, Eiko is directing her multi-year Duet Project and Virtual Creative Residency at Wesleyan University. Eikootake.org