At Festival/Tokyo, contemporary performance reaffirms its value as a forum for open minds.
The stage looked like a classroom ready for a lecture, apart from the safety helmet and toy excavator. Yet the title of the performance was “Oil Pressure Vibrator”.
South Korean Jeong Geum-Hyung’s solo performance at Festival/Tokyo’s Emerging Artists programme had already been seen at festivals around the world since its 2009 premiere.
Jeong sat behind her computer notebook narrating her story and showing a Powerpoint presentation of still and moving images with subtitles in both Japanese and English.
She stated up front that she was like a hermaphrodite and had been exploring ways to fully satisfy herself sexually, on her own. She’d tried an object of her own invention, with a human face and a long neck.
Then one day on the street she came across an excavator.
We saw video footage of her attending a school for excavator operators. It’s usually a man’s career choice, but through sheer determination she passed the course.
Jeong strolled to the centre of the stage and placed the toy on her tummy.
Onscreen she walked away from us, naked, onto a beach and later we saw her totally covered with sand, her legs apart and knees bent up.
Then she was replaced by a sand-sculpture version of her and an excavator approached and started digging. By the end she was completely destroyed.
Trained in theatre and dance, Jeong moved into “object theatre” and started a company called Golden Puppet. Her keen eye and sharp mind were evident in this work, cleverly blurring the border between reality and fiction, live performance and film. In an earlier show she danced with a vacuum cleaner.
There is much promise in her work, and we look forward to more of her experiments with objects and themes.
Some of the imagery in “Oil Pressure Vibrator” was quite striking, but it was presented tastefully, even subtly, and was never shocking or offensive. The subject matter raised eyebrows, but in the end most viewers were truly moved by Jeong’s sincerity.
Festival/Tokyo also featured Compagnie Non Nova’s visual theatre “PPP”, presented by l’Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo et
Performance artist Phia Ménard showed her extraordinary ice-juggling skills with strong visual impact, but the main message of ever-changing nature was more thought-provoking, since Phia was born Philippe.
Seen together, these highly personal works with universal subject matter are perhaps too controversial for other forms of presentation. In this case the theatre benefits from its relatively small audience.
As well, the viewers are in the presence of the artist, sharing the same time and space, and thus not only better able to empathise but also listen and ponder the questions posed. This is so much more preferable to movies and television as they strive to please anyone.
“PPP” was seen in
If I may be so bold as to suggest to the Korean Embassy in
The writer thanks the staff members of F/T and L’Institut Franco-Japonais for all assistance.
written by Pawit Mahasarinand
published in THE NATION on Friday 16th December, 2011
photos courtesy of Festival/Tokyo
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