Saturday, November 26, 2016

Eiko Otake at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Eiko Otake begins her dance in the Choir
at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
(all photos ©2016, Eva Yaa Asantewaa)


In the fall of 2016 and winter of 2017, Eiko is an artist in residence at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Upper Manhattan. She is offering solo performances within the Cathedral, designing a video installation, hosting public conversations, and A Body in Fukushima, a mutable exhibition of dance photographs created in collaboration with historian-photographer William Johnston, is also a part of the larger art exhibition, The Christa Project. Throughout the residency, Eiko will explore the dignity and transcendence inherent in the ordinary and the disregarded.
 --from Eiko & Koma website

Black Friday. I have not spent a penny in stores. Just carfare to travel uptown to watch Eiko Otake at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine where the Japan-born master dancer is in residence through March 11 of next year.

So, how do you find Eiko in that massive space?

Please. Just walk around a few minutes, maybe have a look at William Johnston's portraits of her, and soon, as if from out of nowhere, she will spy you, swoop down and claim you.

When Eiko talks directly to you, she gets right up in your space. You have no time to work out how that happened. You're just swept up in her energy. There's always something somewhere else that she wants to show you, and when she moves off to do so, she's raptor-swift. You just hustle along at her single gesture of command.

She also loves to gather all of her people--friends, students, tourists from Greece and Korea who just happened by--and make a party of strangers. Everyone must first meet everyone else. In this way, Eiko makes the grandeur of the cathedral a little less daunting. She gives permission to everyone to tag along as she drifts here and there--from choir to crossing to congregation seats to art displays to imposing bronze doors--and you get the feeling she might secretly own the joint.


Photos ©2016, Eva Yaa Asantewaa



Not quite, though. Not yet. The handsome cathedral provides a dramatic visual backdrop for this dancer. But I sense these two acclaimed works of art are still getting to know one another.

I have most recently seen Eiko's A Body in Places all over my place--the East Village--in her mesmerizing Spring 2016 platform for Danspace Project. I get and am deeply shaken by what she has done in Fukushima. But I am now trying to get a read on what Eiko's body means in the context of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. So far, I can only make connections between her woman's body and the body of The Christa Project art works displayed throughout this sacred space.

Eiko returns to the cathedral in late January and will continue work through early March, culminating in performances to commemorate the sixth anniversary of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Check back here as I have been invited to visit again next year and document what I'm seeing. In the meantime, please enjoy a few more photos from yesterday afternoon.

All photos ©2016, Eva Yaa Asantewaa







During Holy Week of 1984, Edwina Sandys’ Christa was displayed in the Cathedral as part of a small exhibition on the feminine divine. The general reception was positive, but a particularly vocal minority condemned the piece and its placement in a house of worship through ecclesiastical denunciations and a plethora of hate mail that attacked the “blasphemy” of changing the symbol of Christ. These dissenters highlighted how the sculpture’s allegedly sexualized (i.e. female) figure brought attention to Christ’s human body, which was “blasphemous, shocking, and inappropriate.”

Conversations about the politics of identity have changed tremendously since the 1980s. Christa’s essential statement, however, remains vital to our world today: people are hungry to see themselves and each other fully represented in society, especially in its most powerful and iconic institutions. In turn, the Cathedral is thrilled to display Christa once again, alongside works by 21 other contemporary artists, all exploring the language, symbolism, art, and ritual associated with the historic concept of the Christ image and the divine as manifested in every person—across all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities.
--from Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine website 
The Christa Project: Manifesting Divine Bodies will be on view at the cathedral through March 12, 2017. For information, click here.

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue, at 112th Street (Manhattan)
(directions)

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