A large canvas curtain pressed with black feathers cordons off a section of clean white gallery space. Holes are rent throughout the curtain, inviting visitors to step close and peer through. What they see is a large nest—or perhaps island—of earth, twigs and feathers and strewn atop the angular limbs of artists Eiko and Koma. The viewer may enter the dimly lit space behind the curtain and witness the quiet drama of the two naked bodies, reclined but activated, moving constantly though near-imperceptibly, in a silent dance that evokes meditations on death and the eternal.
The performance is entitled “Naked: a living installation” and comes to the MCA as part of a touring retrospective on the career of Japanese-born, New York-based dance artists Eiko and Koma. The couple has been creating work about subjects that, as they put it, matter to them (and indeed matter to us all) for forty years. Trained by Kazuo Ohno, one of the two founders of the slow, detailed, bleak and infinitely rich dance style butoh, Eiko and Koma draw attention to our perceptions of time and space and our physical places within them. “Naked,” as the full title suggests, is a durational piece, performed nonstop during museum hours. Visitors may sit and watch the piece evolve for as long as they please—an invitation to notice more, to experience the intimacy of the space, to become more absorbed in the moment.
“Naked” was originally commissioned by the Walker in 2010 and will bracket a series of Chicago performances by Eiko and Koma, including “The Caravan Project,” which takes place after dark on a mobile stage, again allowing the audience to come and go as they please, taking in the ambient sounds of their location—in this case the MCA plaza—as an intentional part of the experience. A collection of stage performances will take place at the MCA Theater in late September. It seems no coincidence that dancers who use light as purposefully as they use their muscles and bones would choose to commence this program around the solstice and close it on the equinox. There will be one more opportunity to see “Naked” in November; it would be interesting to witness the series full-circle: starting in the present creative moment, getting the history, and returning again with new eyes. (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago. June 25-28.