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Monday, March 30, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Benjamin Akio Kimitch

Dear friends,

Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.

So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.

--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody

Benjamin Akio Kimitch

Benjamin Akio Kimitch
(photo: Da Ping Luo)

Benjamin Akio Kimitch is an artist, curator and producer living in Brooklyn, NY. Currently a 2019-2021 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence, his choreography has been supported by The Noguchi Museum, The Kitchen and two commissions from Danspace Project. His performances at Danspace received a 2017 New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award nomination. Benjamin worked full-time on the artistic programming teams at Performance Space New York as Senior Producer (2015-2020), the Park Avenue Armory (2014-15), New York Live Arts and Dance Theater Workshop (2008-2014).

Julie McMillan in Kimitch's Ko-bu
(photo: Monika Kratochvil)

Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

I’m in my first year as a Movement Research Artist-in-Residence. My studio hours were paused, and my March 16 Judson showing couldn’t take place as scheduled. However, that same week, I was invited to create something live for AUNTS: WPA. I’m grateful that my immediate relationship to shelter-in-place was anchored by something creative and reactive. I’m in the early phase of planning my next large production 2-3 years out. Right now, the work can feel disingenuous, but the logistical motions help me stay hopeful for the future.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

I’m both a producer and choreographer. My path in producing formally began with a programming internship at Dance Theater Workshop, but I always had a knack for organizing people and resources and navigating bureaucratic systems. Dancing was part of my entire childhood, first ballet and then Chinese dance. I also dove into illustration, cello, puppetry, props production, film editing and pursued theater conservatory in NYC after high school. After about a year, I left to study Peking Opera in Shanghai and finally found my way back to dance at NYU Tisch. My time at DTW expanded my understanding of what performance can be.

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning? How does your practice function within the world we have now?

Now and prior to this coronavirus outbreak, I think a lot about the recent explosion of new spaces for live performance—Pace Live, MoMA, The Shed, and the forthcoming Pier 55 Little Island, Perelman, L10 Arts and Cultural Center, Mercury Store and the New Museum-expansion. In the wake of layoffs and financial shortfalls, existing institutions are bracing for sheer existence. What will this bricks-and-mortar conversation look like when we are rebuilding after COVID-19? I am envisioning how our sector might find a collaborative way forward for the health of our arts ecosystem, and ask what these siloed, architectural, capital projects can contribute while the rest of us climb out of debt.

Meanwhile, in my artistic practice I am taking time to understand my cultural identity. Over a century after the height of Japonisme and Chinoiserie, Asian American artists, like myself, still have complicated access to our own culture because, under a western gaze, our culture is experienced as caricature before authenticity. In response to this history, I’m looking to create something that will be of these times and my own sensibilities. Serendipitously, I need to do a lot of reading and research that benefits from a healthy amount of isolation.

How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

I care about the bigger picture. I uphold high standards and believe in the importance of good art, but I don’t ever conflate it with the highest social good. I’m regularly evaluating my purpose and contribution. Right now, my practice and visioning are focused on the things within my knowledge, reach and control.


DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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