Eiko and Koma spent November performing Naked, their epic, 144-hour “living installation” set within the Event Horizon exhibition of artworks from the Walker collection. It was a landmark event for them and for the Walker, which has enjoyed a nearly 30-year relationship with the Japanese-American dance masters. Yesterday was the final performance and friends, community members and staff gathered around for a final hurrah. We will miss them!
They shared some of their thoughts as the piece drew to a close:
What were your thoughts as you entered the final days of this performance?
It has been both a challenge and strange pleasure to be on view, us being naked, in a museum all day every day. Some people have come to see us informed. They came purposefully to spend some time with us. Others have happened to come across our installation during their museum visit and marveled, “these are real people!” It has been wonderful to be seen by such range of people. Walker staff, viewers, and gallery monitors have been all very supportive, which was important for our experience. —Eiko
Having done the work for a month, I am now aware that Naked has elements I have always wanted in my life. In our four-decade-long career, we have performed in theaters worldwide, but we wish we could present this work in museums world-wide: Beijing, Paris Tokyo Jakarta etc. —Koma
Do you have any sense yet of how your experience with Naked will affect your work going forward?
In several decades of performing as dancers, we had never before been on view in such proximity to our audience. At times only a single person or a few were in the room, watching for a very long time. We felt their gaze and support while their minds remain unknown to us. We like this suspense—the idea that we might be co-creating, with each viewer, a very individual experience. We might miss these individuals’ eyes and minds next time we perform for a large audience in a theater. —Eiko
We have decided to present Naked in New York this spring and possibly elsewhere in the future. We have discovered that we like creating and presenting an installation—not a dance, but a time/space/body/movement/texture/smell-based experience. —Koma
Has there been any kind of turning point or epiphany during the performance, and if so, can you describe it?
One day a couple came in and said loudly, “What’s this?” “This is crazy! This is absurd!” Listening, I wanted to answer, “Indeed! I agree.” We have always wanted to make something beyond reasonable. Maybe we are absurd, and why not? —Koma
What have you found to be either surprisingly difficult or surprisingly easy during the performance?
It was surprisingly easy to create a sound score that did not compete with the museum noise. We originally thought about how to use water for visual effect, but it turned out that hanging frozen water bottles upside down near the ceiling, and having the melted ice drip through small holes onto on roof paper, created very satisfying sound score. It accepted and worked well with the voices that we and viewers heard from other galleries, and with the whispers within our installation. I am glad we did not create any special sounds other than water dripping. —Eiko
Being in the installation for six hours every day was more exhausting than we expected, but we enjoyed the experience as long as there were people watching and supporting us, which was most of the time. But it was surprisingly difficult was when we found ourselves alone. —Koma
What was it like as that last hour wound down?
The gallery was packed, both inside the installation and with people outside looking through burned holes in the panels. We asked the curator to fade out light slowly to black, which made light from adjacent galleys come through the holes. Thus we and viewers breathed the end of the marathon and together recognized and appreciated where we were … Walker. We were very moved by how emotional and supportive people were in celebrating our closing. One person told us it was her fourth visit; she was there all day for six hours watching us, and watching people watching us. Other people started to tell us how many times and with whom they had come to Naked, how long they stayed and what they were thinking about it. We learned that not only we but so many other people were invested in this piece. —Eiko