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Ibuki Kuramochi

Butoh, Post-Humanism, Eco-Feminism



Matrix, Ibuki Kuramochi, 2022. Video art. 8’51”.

The matrix is the mother body, the uterus, which is also used in biology and medicine as the word "interstitial."

In this video performance work, Ibuki focused on the "intrinsic difference" that exists in one's body—physicality.

The egg that appears in the video is a symbol of circulatory time, identity, and heredity, while the flesh symbolizes sexuality and physicality.

Butoh dance is a physical expression that traverses between life and death, between sexuality and asexuality, and at the same time, it is ritual and transformative.

The differential physicality of the self that emerges through Butoh is at once transformative and cyborg.

Ibuki explores the encounter with the intrinsic cyborg that emerges with the occurrence of ovulation, the repetition of bodily difference that is biologically repeated, and the ritual intersection of internal identity and internal difference.

Human Performer

Human Performer, Ibuki Kuramochi, 2022. Performance and AR Video Art. 12’38”.

Ibuki's work focuses on the theme of physicality, combining digital media with the movements of Butoh, a uniquely Japanese modern contemporary dance form.

"HUMAN PERFORMER" re-examines questions of Asian (Japanese) female physicality, patriarchy and tradition, and essentialism in the context of post-human feminism.

Butoh dance, also known as the dance of darkness, was created by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno after World War II as a means of re-establishing Japanese cultural identity. Butoh moved away from modernization and Western dance styles, founding Butoh on unknown principles such as philosophy, the subconscious, primal instincts, and ancient, incomprehensible myths.

Tradition is a strong identity of the Japanese people, and out of proportion to capitalist social development, it continues to reign as a source of pride in its prestigious beauty, hiding the absurdity within its traditions. Japan ranks 116th out of 146 countries on the 2022 Global Gender Gap Index (8th from the bottom in the political field).

This work features "Noh," an ancient traditional Japanese performing art. Noh and other traditional Japanese cultures have long been off-limits to women. Most performances in Noh are performed by men, including the female roles. Performers wear Noh masks, and the story unfolds in a spiritual world of humans, spirits, demons, and other characters. The mask of an elderly man, "Okina," is the most prestigious of all Noh masks. The "Okina" mask is symbolic of the deeply rooted male supremacy in the art world, based on the history of patriarchy and the disdain for women. The thinking is that what men create is essential, and the identity of "Okina" is similar to that of the Vitruvian figure in the West.

In "HUMAN PERFORMER," Ibuki mixed these faces—the face of her elderly self masculinized by AI, the face of a traditional elderly man, and the face of a traditional Japanese woman—to explore the question of tradition and essentialism. The piece examines the matrix, the privileged values necessarily possessed by gender and age, and what it means to be a MAN = human being. It seeks to understand where the significance of physicality, with its boundaries and otherness, converges.

Artist Interview

Q: In this new edition of the UAAD online magazine, we're exploring the theme of "[Matrix] of the [Not-Yet]." How would you interpret these two words, and how do you see your work aligning with the concepts of [Matrix] and [Not-Yet]?

To me, the term "Matrix" represents a nurturing and generative environment — a metaphorical uterus where ideas, identities, and futures evolve. This aligns closely with my artistic perspective, especially in relation to the female body as a source of creation.

Q: We are very interested in the trajectory of your creative practices and their connection to the theme. Could you provide us with a little more information about your background?

I've dedicated my artistic practice to exploring the profound theme of the body through a diverse array of mediums, including paintings, digital works, videos, and performances. My inspiration stems from a fusion of disciplines, blending elements of philosophy, identity politics, and the female body into my creative process.

Before I discovered Butoh dance, I was deeply involved in live painting performances, collaborating with musicians and exploring improvised physical painting. As I sought to incorporate a variety of movements into my art, I struggled to connect with contemporary dance until a friend suggested that Butoh dance might align well with my artistic vision.

Butoh, known as the "Dance of Darkness," was founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno after World War II to re-establish Japanese cultural identity. I visited the Kazuo Ohno Butoh Dance Studio, where I had the privilege of practicing under the guidance of Mr. Yoshito Ohno, son of Butoh co-founder Kazuo Ohno.

My first encounter with the philosophy of Ohno Butoh was transformative. In a quiet practice space imbued with creativity, we explored Butoh's spiritual dimensions, envisioning our dance as a journey from the uterus to the universe. This profound alignment of my artistic expression with Butoh's philosophy moved me to tears and solidified the connection between my creativity and spiritual practice.

Kazuo Ohno's Butoh, influenced by themes of life and death stemming from his wartime experiences, particularly explores the relationship between mother and unborn child. This theme deeply resonates with my work, where I incorporate critical perspectives on post-human and cyborg identities, intertwining narratives of the female body and uterus.

Although Mr. Yoshito Ohno passed away in 2020, his impact on my artistic journey remains profound. Butoh, as a bodily expression transcending life and death, sexuality and asexuality, inside and outside, continues to inform my exploration of human existence and embodiment in the digital age.

Q: The creators participating in this magazine work across various mediums, including moving images, interactive installations, music composition, etc. What factors influence your choice of medium for your works?

The main factors influencing my choice of medium include the desire to explore and represent the visceral experience of the female body through embodied, physical expression in mediums like Butoh dance performance, video art, and digital painting. I adopt a critical approach to reimagining representations of the female form outside patriarchal ideals, using interdisciplinary methods across dance, visual art, and technology. The influence of Butoh's emphasis on inner transformation through ritualized movement makes performance a key medium.

Additionally, the intersections of technology, posthumanism, and feminist theory that digital mediums enable me to investigate allow for the exploration of themes like mutability and the merging of physical and virtual identities. Finally, I draw inspiration from personal experiences such as dreams and nightmares, where the immersive and visceral qualities of video, performance, and digital art effectively capture and convey subjective states rooted in my psyche and bodily experiences.

Q: How does your work reflect or actively engage with the cultural and social dynamics of your community or the communities you interact with? Are there elements in your art that seek to bridge, disrupt, or transform these dynamics?

My work is deeply rooted in the cultural and social dynamics of Japanese society. Through the fusion of digital media and Butoh dance, I challenge traditional norms and power structures, especially regarding gender and identity. By incorporating elements of Noh theater, which historically exclude women from performing certain roles, I aim to critique and disrupt entrenched patriarchal values within Japanese arts. The use of AI to blend and transform faces also serves to question essentialist views on gender and age, sparking conversations about identity and privilege in our community and beyond. Ultimately, my art seeks to bridge traditional practices with contemporary dialogues, provoking critical reflection on societal norms and the significance of physicality and identity.

Q: What real-world strategies or methodologies do you employ in your art practice to manifest your visions of the future? How do these tactics serve as forms of resistance or intervention within the current socio-political landscape?

In my art practice, I employ interdisciplinary collaboration and technology to challenge norms and envision alternative futures. By blending digital media with Butoh dance and traditional Japanese elements, I disrupt established narratives on gender and tradition. Exploring post-human and virtual identities, I prompt reflections on humanity's relationship with gender and sexuality. Through narrative storytelling and symbolism, I amplify marginalized voices and promote empathy. Overall, my work serves as a platform for resistance, fostering dialogue, and envisioning a more inclusive society.

Q: How do you hope your work impacts its viewers or participants, particularly in terms of rethinking potential futures or alternate realities? Who do you perceive as your audience?

While my art is intended for everyone, I particularly aim to reach Japanese men who are complicit in authority and patriarchy. My goal is to engage them in conversations about the complexities of gender, power, and tradition within our community and beyond, and to educate them.

Q: As a creator, what do you see as the threats or uncertainties we will face in the coming decade?

As a creator, I think one thing we cannot ignore is the pervasiveness of AI. AI has spread dramatically in the past few years and is now an integral part of our lives.
Ten years from now, it will no longer need human prompting.

To what extent are our own thoughts and originality, and to what extent does human work carry academic value when competing with AI? The purpose of my physical practice with Butoh dance is to go back to my own body. Ten years from now, when AI makes even more dramatic progress and penetration, the only destination will be human physicality.

Q: What motivates you to continue creating as an artist?

My motivation is the suffering and pain that usually arise in everyday life. This is the main driving force behind my work.

Q: Are there any theories, books, or artists you would like to recommend in your current areas of interest?

"Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World" by Leslie Kern.
"Posthuman Feminism" by Rosi Braidotti.
"The World of the Fetus" by Shigeo Miki.

Q: If you could create an art piece with unlimited resources and no constraints, how would it look like, and why?

I want to create a huge sculpture and use it as a set design for a performance — an expansive, inclusive womb.

About the Artist

Ibuki Kuramochi is a Japanese-born interdisciplinary artist whose practice centers on exploring the expressive potential of the human body through video art, digital painting, and Butoh dance performance. Influenced by Butoh—a post-WWII Japanese dance form rejecting Western modernization—Kuramochi critiques patriarchal ideals and reimagines the female form as a locus of empowerment. Her work delves into themes of mutability, transformation, and agency, drawing from post-human feminism and cyborg feminism. Exhibited internationally in galleries and museums from New York to Tokyo, Kuramochi's practice incorporates Butoh dance, performance art, video and installation, deeply rooted in the body and the intersection of thought and anatomy. In 2019, she was featured as LA WEEKLY's Artist of the Year. Ibuki Kuramochi currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

©2024 Underground Art And Design LLC | ISSN 2835-284X

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