Kensaku Shinohara

“joe” is an experiment of refusal to decode meaning.

“joe” has one row of the audience (up to 60) set-up facing a long mirror with a curtain where they see themselves when the curtain opens; four ballet barres are carried around, sometimes upside down or pointing toward the ceiling; and a video monitor showing a heart shape. There are four dancers, as well as two performers without formal dance training to convey casual performance quality. To date (June 2020), it is 45 minutes long, the material has been developed ito include; an introduction speech that abruptly cuts out and becomes a dance movement; a duet dancing with intimate soundscape; another duet with ballet barres carried around with oppositely louder, colorful soundscape; intense group improvisation using lots of props interacting with the audience closely (there is a moment when ballet barres are pointed toward the audience, very close); and five minutes of choreographed intermission where the audiences are encouraged to walk around and they end up taking pictures. 

“joe” explores productive confusion. Its goal is to re-focus on abstract strength, thickness, unknownness, volume and length of the work, which all together bring the boldest authenticity and creative context specific to who/where/when we are. The traditional relationship with the audience in theater is unilateral, but over the last six decades many artists have been inventing new, interactive relationships with the audience in non-theatrical venues such as museums, site-specific performances, and online. Today, the great popularity of VR systems, site-specific performances like Sleep No More, and events like night museum visits indicate that the audience wants to participate in the experiences actively in many different ways. I am very aware of this aspect in the time of technology, and especially this year with the COVID-19 outbreak, where we have to find new ways to create and share. “joe” is offering the rich experience with abstraction, time, space and movements, all woven thickly to challenge the audience’s perception and perspective in its interactive setup.

As a work in progress, this piece has been performed five times in the Los Angeles area, and has developed in collaboration with performers, a composer, a lighting designer, and a costume stylist. In March 2020, the new section of 30-60 minutes was under construction, and that was when the outbreak of COVID-19 came out. The social and performance distance have to be re-identified, and artistic practices and commitments are to be re-figured out. “joe” is also an experiment of remembering and imprinting this current, historic experience of COVID-19 within itself and the community. In order to do this, the rehearsals and creative process for the current development are processed online, so that this unique time is directly influencing and structuring the project.