“Since , O Mazda from the beginning, Thou didst create soul and body, mental power and knowledge , and since Thou didst bestow to mankind the power to act , speak and guide , you wished that everyone should chose their own faith and path freely.”

Zaratostra - Yasna 31, Verse 11

One who always thinks of his own safety and profit, how can he love the joy-bringing Mother Earth? The righteous man that follows Asha's Law shall dwell in regions radiant with Thy Sun, the abode where wise ones dwell.”

Zaratostra Yasna, Verse 2

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Abstract for the Symposium by Associate Professor Peter Eckersall

Port B: ‘site as stage’—the audience runs amok in the archive

Since 2003, when Port B was founded by Takayama Akira, this Tokyo based company have made interdisciplinary art works at the borders of what we generally accept as theatre. These include experimental theatre productions, art installations and works called ‘tour performances.’ Documentary performance techniques are used; techniques that use documents, interviews and site research to create new information and uncover hidden aspects of the past. Documentary performance often dwells on the connections that people have to places and tells personal, in many cases, revelatory stories. 

This paper examines ‘The Complete Manual of Evacuation—Tokyo’ (Takayama, 2010) an artwork taking as its central image the 34.5 km Yamanote train line circling around Tokyo. At each of its 29 stations an evacuation zone was established. ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ is described as:
A communicational system that enables the audiences to come into contact with communities that usually remain unseen in the shape of our present-day cities …. The dialogue starts via Internet and then spreads to several districts in Tokyo. (A venture with the aim of disrobing theatre.) A theatrical architecture, designing a new form of encounter.
Participants register on line and complete a questionnaire (still available at: http://hinan-manual.com/); depending on their answers, they would be directed to one of the 29 stations.  Once there, they could meet ‘communities’ such as homeless people and migrants and explore the buried histories and cartographies of each site.

In ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ an interactive network of temporary ‘sites as stage’ is created and the role of the audience is cleverly transformed.  Who is an audience in these works?  There are paying ticket-holders, people who interact with them at evacuation sites, and even the people in the teeming city that surround them.  And how does ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ narrate transcultural identity? Jacques Derrida writes in Archive Fever: ‘There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory.’[1]  He indicates that the stakes are high over the memorialisation and excavation of sites and people’s histories.  This paper will explore how ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ might enable the countering of such a fulsome ideological contest where dominating powers put their singular claims on identity.  Participating in this carefully created ‘site as theatre’ enables the audience to run amok and see artefacts and people in different relationships to space and power.

Peter Eckersall is Associate Professor in Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.  Peter’s research interests include contemporary Japanese theatre, experimental performance and dramaturgy. His major publications include Theorizing the Angura Space: avant-garde performance and politics in Japan 1960-2000 (Brill Academic, 2006) and forthcoming Kawamura Takeshi’s Nippon Wars and Other Plays (Seagull Books, 2011).  He is dramaturg for Not Yet It’s Difficult whose performance and media works are well known in Australia, Asia and Europe.  Peter is presently a visiting fellow at the International Centre, Interweaving Performance Cultures at Freie University, Berlin. 

[1] Jacques Derrida Archive Fever, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 4, note 1.

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