Why choose to work with manga then? Why not work with some other aspect of Japanese culture and work with and learn through some other medium? Through my research project, I have been interested in contemporary science fiction as a critical backdrop to the research questions of embodiment, movement, and corporeality. Japanese manga has had a big impact on Western science fiction. I am interested in the visualization of the movement dynamics in Japanese manga and the way manga is viewed. In manga the materialization of the movement dynamics is based on the composition of the panels and the inner dynamics of one image. While working with Yazawa, I also learned that working with the movement of the eye while looking at manga is important. And, finally, manga is one of the Japanese cultural fields in which all kind of imaginary embodiments take place. These reasons made sense to my research questions, and to move in this direction in this project felt like the right artistic choice.
In the videos, the decision to stay in one spot and experiment from there is probably the most important aspect of this work when it comes to choreography as reading practice. This choice was based on the working plan in which the videos are critically set parallel with the impressive movement dynamics of manga. One of the references for the video work, which I got to know during the process, is Japanese experimental filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto’s work Atman (1975).
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdcN8wDxT0Q, accessed 12.10.2017)
Thus, the work brings together the experimentation with the movement dynamics of five various locations, my choreographic thinking and experiential practice, and the movement dynamics of manga. This work is an example of how my artistic research project has changed my practice. The previous choreographic practice of mine, before the doctoral process, was based on producing spectacular dance movements on stage. In pompom the body is not a site for the spectacular, but instead it operates as a subtle, experiential, and dense organism in a constant transformative state on an intimate micro-scale. Choreography as reading practice is based on this subtle intimacy, in which the perception and experience of the surrounding movements and kinesthetic field is processed through rapid process of engagement and disengagement with the effects that the movements’ qualities generate. Scaling down the movement that is realized by my body can be seen as a developing direction from the first works of this research project to this work. During this research project, the works have been based on durational and brief walking practice, fast bodily engagement with the material condition, and physically demanding movement practice, and here I have ended up working in one standing spot, which is extremely dense, formed, and occupied with simultaneous, various, multidirectional movements. It somewhat amuses me to think how such a constantly moving immense megalopolis like Tokyo impacted my practice in this tuning-down way. I recognize the process of Pompom as becoming-through-motion in the sense that the performing body in the videos is open-ended and never finished, simultaneously operating in flux and in stasis.
The storyline of the manga panels is based on the experiments in five different locations. After shooting the videos, I wrote the storyline and discussed and processed it with the working group. We met regularly during those three months, and in every meeting Yazawa brought proposals for manga to be discussed. We agreed with Yazawa that my role was to work as the choreographer of the manga, in the sense that I set the framework, the basic dramaturgy, movements, and expressions of the character in a detailed manner, and Yazawa worked in dialogue with those artistic directions. The storyline reflects the experience of effects and forces at play in each site, plus the imaginary actions that these forces and effects generated. From this perspective, the work combines reading and writing; the first phase of the work, shooting the videos is based on my choreographic reading practice of the particular conditions in which the body takes place, and the detailed storyboard for the manga is written based on that experimentation. The actual work of the whole installationis thus more than the shot videos and reading practice on site. The installation is based on setting the videos and manga parallel to each other in a space where the viewer can experience the work by forming a dialogue between these two mediums. One important material component of the work is a light-blue synthetic curtain behind the video screens. If the video material and the practice exposed in them is understood to contribute to the ecological turn of the choreography, in which the emphasis is how the movements of the body cannot be separated from its environment, the curtain then brings a contemporary friction to this possibly nostalgic ‘back to nature’ thinking. My body is technologically conditioned, and the choice to use this kind of curtain exposes the conditions in which the algorithmic urban body takes place, is formed, and is shapeshifting parallel to the body-organism that couples with the organic environment. Thus, these two realms – ecological and technological – are not separate but together form the sphere in which my body takes place.