▲ Self-styled "vagabond violinist" Simon Powell in shadow. Photo by Ann Bush
A quartet of artists debuted “Between the Lines,” a composite of shadow, light, dance and music at Art’ Scenic, Jeju City, on Saturday, Jan 10. The project was the brainchild of local artist Simon Powell, and was inspired by his photography series exploring how we interpret shadows through projecting our inner perspectives.
Compelled by the shadow’s boundless artistic potential, Powell mobilized three fellow artists to elucidate his vision: Yangjah, Hankyeol Kim, and Yuki Maegaki. Recognizing that original forms are invariably distorted in interpretation, each performer explored the underlying themes through their own art and background.
A self-proclaimed English gentleman and vagabond violinist, Powell contributed the trills of his violin in addition to his vision. Japanese-born Korean Yangjah, a contemporary dancer who sees her empty body as being filled by the music and environment around her, contributed movement to the piece.
Kim contributed her own contemporary dance techniques, honed at Ehwa Woman’s University, Seoul, while Maegaki, flying in from her hometown, Osaka, Japan, provided the cosmic twanging of her taishōgoto, a traditional Japanese instrument that resembles a long typewriter with strings.
▲ The audience interprets the shadows as the back-lit performers dance. Photo by Ann Bush
The all-important shadows were created by shining light beams onto white gossamer sheets hanging at the front of the stage, while the performers stood between the sheets and the light.
The show’s overarching theme of a desire for connection was introduced with its opening shadow image of two gargantuan hands becoming ever more entangled as they anxiously search for each other across a net.
Following this opening, a call and response music performance between Powell and Maegaki ensued, showcasing the contrast between the serene lull of the violin and the distinct plucking of the taishōgoto, alluding to two languages being spoken.
The next phase of the show introduced Yangjah and Kim to the stage as lights swayed back and forth like searchlights scanning for a fugitive. The dancers possessed a desperation in their movement as their shadows wandered and spun across the screen.
The dissonant high squeals of Powell’s violin and deep daunting bass of Maegaki’s taishōgoto amplified the sense of urgency that perhaps signified the deep anxiety of longing for human intimacy, a point of connection. In the end, a connection was attained once the two searchlights sharpened into orbs and slowly engulfed each other.
▲ The shadows strive to connect behind the gossamer screen at Art' Scenic, Jeju City. Photo by Ann Bush
Celebrating the achievement of connection, the following phase moved into a calmer and more playful mood of discovery and infatuation. The shadow of a woman slowly rose and her arms stretched as if awakening, with the two sets of arms undulating and caressing the other while the figures themselves separated in a merriment of soft feminine energy.
The influence of traditional Korean dance in the slowness in their movements and the fluttering of their delicate fingers evoked an enraptured delight in this newfound union.
As it drew towards its conclusion, Between the Lines grappled with accepting a connection lost. The addition of a new side light caused an unsettling repetition and skewing of the shadows, which intensified the ambiance of confusion and danger.
The figures of Yangjah and Kim proceeded to writhe and stomp about. One figure violently combed its hair backward with its fingers. Another created strange shadow deformities of itself. At last, the dancers broke the barrier between performer and audience, and emerged from between the sheets as if exploring an unknown territory, before retreating back into the safety of the shadow plane.
Overall, Between the Lines was enthusiastically received by a full house of both Koreans and foreigners. American Alexis Oesterle found it “creative, well executed, and beautiful,” adding she was “thrilled to find a [performance] so diverse” that catered to both Korean and non-Korean speakers.
The success of Between the Lines is part of a movement toward new experimental art and artists on the island, subsidized by a government keen on making Jeju Island a cultural hub.
Art’ Scenic organizer, Bomi Kim, was delighted by the performance and its representation of human relationships. She hopes many more young underground artists bring performance art to the center in the same vein. If that happens, Jeju residents can look forward to more engrossing performances like Between the Lines and its bewitching performers.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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