artist / participant
Eiko & Koma
In the summer of 1998, renowned Japanese-American choreographers Eiko & Koma created Breath, a living installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. For seven hours a day over the course of a month, one of the two artists lay naked within a space composed of tea-stained silk, dried leaves, and other organic materials. Described at the time as their "first visual arts installation," the piece used the museum as a frame to concentrate the viewer on how the body relates to time, space, and the environment—core aspects of the artists' work.
Twelve years later, Eiko & Koma have returned to a gallery setting with Naked, a new and intensely charged artistic experience. This time both dancers are present throughout, immersed in an environment that they composed out of burnt canvas, soil, feathers, rice paste, sea salt and dripping water. The month-long living installation unfolds six hours a day, six days a week as part of Event Horizon, an exhibition of works from the Walker's collection. The artists' living presence in the galleries complements the feedback loop between performance and materials at the core of many of the works on view. "We think that the body offers a radical questioning, particularly in a museum context—not asking questions necessarily, but questioning as a state of being," says Eiko. "A body gives other objects and situations scale and reference." Visitors are invited to stay for a few minutes or the entire day, and return numerous times to experience the work.
Emerging in the artistic and political tumult of late 1960s Tokyo, Eiko & Koma have made the United States their home since the mid-1970s. While influenced by the Japanese avant-garde (including Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, the founders of butoh) and German modernist expressionist dance, in the nearly 40 years of their collaboration the pair has created a highly subjective choreographic and visual vocabulary, often utilizing textured environments that they handcraft from organic materials.
The core of the artists' work is the body stripped bare—metaphorically, often physically—through which they explore its position within the natural and social world. In an era dominated by digital networks of information and communication, where human consciousness is dispersed into the virtual sphere, the artists assert the importance of the body as concrete and contingent in its presence or absence.
Eiko & Koma were first invited to the Walker in 1981 for New Dance USA. Since then, they have presented 12 performance pieces with the institution, 6 of which were commissioned works. In 2009, the artists were again commissioned by the Walker to create Naked. The installation also coincides with the development of the Retrospective Project, a groundbreaking three-year review of the artists' major works, which will be hosted by several institutions and includes a catalogue to be published by the Walker in spring 2011.
Catalogue In conjunction with Eiko & Koma's Retrospective Project, the Walker Art Center is publishing the first comprehensive monograph of the artists' work. Eiko & Koma: Time Is Not Even, Space Is Not Empty includes scholarly essays, an interview with the artists, and an illustrated "catalogue of works" detailing each of their projects to date accompanied by reprints of primary materials and short essays on specific works. Forthcoming in May 2011, the 288-page catalogue is edited by curator Joan Rothfuss and includes texts by Philip Bither, Suzanne Carbonneau, Doryun Chong, Forrest Gander, André Lepecki, Sam Miller, and Olga Viso; more than 250 color and black-and-white images; and a bibliography. ISBN 978-0-935640-97-7