Colors, they say, make life beautiful. But now that we have captured all nuances, tones and shades in high-resolution, are not we conversely captured by digital images? The Japanese performance Chroma is a play of light and shadow, visual effects and large graphics that chase and overwhelm the players on stage.
Director Shiro Takatani employs the laws of physics and contemporary optics to challenge spectators to find meaning in the flood of images that inundate us daily, visual data through which we create the world we see around us.
Takatani found inspiration in Simon Fisher Turner’s music and the book Chroma: A Book of Colour (1994), the last work of the English artist-filmmaker Derek Jarman. As in the book, a meditation on vision and its loss — Jarman suffered from AIDS-related blindness — the performance intersperses poetry, anecdotes and quotes from thinkers Aristotle, Leonardo, Newton, Goethe and Wittgenstein.
We can only know the present within the dimension of time, and only grasp a small quantum of space. As we mature, we realize how insignificant our existence is, like a dot in ever-growing space. We try to orient ourselves within this linear labyrinth the only way we can, through events. By accepting the uncertainty, and drawing ourselves out of the relentless chaotic current of history, we may concentrate on the expression of the beautiful in the everyday. The theme of our experiment is: How are we to appreciate image and sound today? Ever since the shift from analog to digital technologies, we have been blessed with high-resolution sound and video, but have we found meaning in them? Have we forgotten everything we experienced before? Like Spinoza, who polished lenses in order to see the beauty of the world, we have technologies today that can capture the world moment by moment in minute detail, but do we employ them in any meaningful way? So far, it seems, we’ve only reached convincing façades, not the actual, often harrowing beauty of the real. Chroma is not based on a script; it is rather an experiment thatattempts to rediscover art as pure experience. — ShiroTakatani, January 2012.
Shiro Takatani has been active in performing arts for many years. A graduate of Kyoto City University of Arts, he and fellow students founded Dumb Type in 1984. His breakthrough as an artist came with his first solo installation frost frames (1998), which drew acclaim from many cultural organizations around the world.
Alongside his activities within Dumb Type, Takatani has created a number of installations and performances under his own name. He was commissioned by the Natural History Museum of Latvia in Riga to create two video installations: Ice Core and Snow Crystal for the 2005 group exhibition Conversations with Snow and Ice, dedicated to Ukichiro Nakaya’s research on snow and ice and nominated for the 2007 Descartes Award for Excellence in the Explanation of Scientific phenomena.
He also joined the three-week British arctic expedition “Cape Farewell: a cultural response to climate change” together with scientists, writers, journalists and artists from different countries. The related group exhibition was presented at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo, in 2008. Takatani’s works have been shown in the United Kingdom, France and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries. His installations have also been selected for various museums’ permanent collections.
Takatani is the creator of three theater/dance performances: La chambre claire (2008), after the Roland Barthes essay, CHROMA (2012), inspired by Derek Jarman’s Chroma: A Book of Color, with original music by Simon Fisher Turner, and ST/LL (2015) in which he explores whether “art or science can ever truly express this hourglass world.”
In 1990, Takatani participated with critical theorist Akira Asada in the art project Stadsmarkeringen Groningen – Marking the City Boundaries, led by architect Daniel Libeskind to mark the 950th anniversary of the City of Groningen in the Netherlands. In 1998, he was commissioned by Art Zoyd and the Lille National Orchestra to create video images for a project combining symphonic music and new technologies.
Takatani later met composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, with whom he has created several shows and installations, combining words, music, theater and dance.
Takatani has also collaborated with the fog sculptor Fujiko Nakaya in the 2001 Valencia Biennale, where they created the harbor front installation IRIS, followed by two more large-scale installations with her: Cloud Forest (2010) at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM], and Asuka Art Project (2011) at the Asuka Historical National Park in Nara.
Takatani’s works have been presented at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Romaeuropa Festival / MACRO in Roma, Royal Academy of Arts in London, Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon, GREC Festival in Barcelona, Festival de Otoño in Madrid, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Lille 2004: European Capital of Culture, The National Museum of Art Osaka, and elsewhere.
In 2015, Takatani received the 65th Fine Arts Prize (Media Art) from the Japanese Government Culture Agency.
Founded in Kyoto in 1984, Dumb Type is comprised of artists from diverse backgrounds— dance, theater, music, design, architecture, programming—all contributing to a great variety of stage and installation productions over the years. Regardless of genre, the essence of their work addresses socio-political apathy, and the today’s technological reality on a global scale.
Dumb Type toured their early multimedia works Pleasure Life (1988), pH (1990-1995) and S/N (1994-1996) worldwide before the untimely death of the group’s artistic director Teiji Furuhashi, a prominent HIV/AIDS activist, in 1995. Since then, the ensemble has continued under the direction of Shiro Takatani, creating such later works as OR (1997-1999), memorandum (1999-2003) and Voyage (2002-2009), with composer Ryoji Ikeda joining in several productions.
Duration: 70 minutes
Artistic Director: Shiro Takatani
Performers: Misako Yabuuchi, Yuko Hirai, Olivier Balzarini, Alfred Birnbaum
Music: Simon Fisher Turner, Takuya Minami, Marihiko Hara
Lighting: Yukiko Yoshimoto
Media authoring: Ken Furudate
Stage manager: So Ozaki
Technical director: Thomas Leblanc
Video and Sound techniciann: Satoshi Hama
Lighting technician: Kazuya Yoshida
Video and Programming assistant: Ryo Shiraki
Conceptual collaboration: Hiromasa Tomari
Company manager: Yoko Takatani (dumb type office Ltd.)
Voices (in order of appearance): Paolino Accolla (Aristotle, Leonardo), Mark Robinson
(Newton), Markus Thinnes (Goethe), Alfred Birnbaum (Wittgenstein, Jarman), Jasper Fisher Turner
Production: dumb type office Ltd.
Co-production: Biwako Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Shiga (Japan)
Support: The Saison Foundation (grant for international collaboration project 2011-2013)
Production, tours: Epidemic – Richard Castelli, Chara Skiadelli, Florence Berthaud, Claire Dugot
Photos: Cover image by ©Kazuo Fukunaga, first 3 photos by ©Yoshikazu Inoue and the rest are by ©Kazuo Fukunaga
Inspired by Derek Jarman’s Chroma, A Book of Colour [Century, 1993], with thanks to
The Estate of Derek Jarman
The show will be presented in Plovdiv with the support of EU JAPAN FEST, in partnership with Plovdiv 2019, Embassy of Japan in Sofia, Friends of Japan in Bulgaria club, Agency for Cultural Affairs Government of Japan, for the year of 2017, and Japan Foundation.