By Jingxuan Wang
Three years after the disaster occurred in Fukushima Nuclear Plant, its immeasurable consequences are still on display to the public. Among a wide variety of media, a few are demonstrated through artistic expressions, and even fewer within those could provoke such an extreme emotional impact as Eiko and Johnston’s work.
“We dance about what matters to us,” Eiko has said. Her sensitivity towards the relationship between humans and nature is beautifully demonstrated in the images, though in a very heartbroken way. During summertime, vivid green vines flourished in a large section of the tracks in Momouchi Station. Although they were visually appealing, vines intertwined with Eiko’s body so tightly as if to devour and suffocate her. The tension in Eiko’s physical and facial expression suggested to the audience the fact that the beast is within the beauty. Under the vibrant lush, there remains a high level of radiation, and will remain for no one knows how long.
The establishment of the powerful communication between their work and the audience is based on the perfect combination of the two independent art forms that generally had no convergence before. Dance is a continuous stream of movements, while photography, on the other hand, emphasizes a particular moment of time. Therefore it is very difficult for cameras to capture the stillness of the dynamic flow in dance.
However, Eiko and Johnston’s work not only solves the difficulty, but also perfectly balances stillness and dynamism. The remnants of the sea wall, water-swept concrete blocks and the piles of radioactive soil bags provide a backdrop that is deadly quiet and lifeless. Eiko’s minimal yet highly controlled movements, along with her bright kimono, visually enliven the horrifying stillness, but at the same time infuse more sadness into the deserted settings from an emotional perspective.
Frequent kneeling and folding of the body conveys a strong sense of remorse and humility, to nature and people who suffered.. In the images, Eiko always keeps her eyes closed or looks downward. The lack of eye contact with the camera speaks to her sorrow and sadness, which shows the sign of thinking, a meticulous retrospection of the catastrophic change over time and space. Though Eiko’s postures are captured by photography, the original dynamism in her dancing does not stop, but rather extends beyond the margins of the images. Besides merely delivering her emotions, she anticipates the audience’s participation to decipher her gestures and form their own emotional response.
Maybe describing this kind of representation as a combination of dance and photography is not accurate enough, because this exhibition also presents the idea of interdependence. The settled nature of image seems to constrain dancing, however, it actually broadens its possibilities in ways of interpretation. Meanwhile the relentless thoughtfulness in her postures accentuates the desolate background of Fukushima.