Christopher Myers: A Glossary of Terms – Benjamin Kimitich’s “Ko-bu”
February 23, 2017
Jose Clemente Orozco’s Hombre de Fuego:
Last month I was in Guadalajara. I stood under the dome in Hospicio Cabanas, tracing circles under the painting by Orozco of a man engulfed in flames walking calmly across the sky. As I pass under the dome, I am almost sure that the figures surrounding the central figure are moving, are writhing, are twisting. Even the man on fire seems to take a step. A tour guide passing says that this is part of the genius of Orozco, that he uses the architecture to create movement from stillness.
Once at the Joyce theater, I watched a Butoh performer from the company Sankai-Juku run across the the stage. It took him three hours. I cannot tell you how he did this.
Magojiro — a mask for Noh theater from the Edo Period:
There is a study published in the Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, entitled Viewpoint Dependent Facial Expression Recognition, Japanese Noh Masks and the Human Face. In the study several scientists demonstrated what is well known about masks carved for Noh drama, that despite the rigidity of the wood and layers of laquer and pigment, the masks themselves are remarkably fluid. A skilled Noh performer can by tilting their mask precisely, express fear, anticipation, eagerness, and joy. I think of the carver of the mask they used, working perhaps on a deadline in Japan in the late 1600s. I imagine he couldn’t have imagined that his mask would be laser scanned and shown to a number of British and Japanese test subjects, who were subsequently asked what emotions they could see.
Andy Warhol’s early films:
Sleep was Andy Warhol’s first film, followed by Kiss, Blow Job, Eat, and Empire. The camera is often still. At the first screening of Sleep there were nine audience members, two walked out after the first hour of five. Empire was eight hours long.
Bill Viola and Kira Perov-Martyrs:
In St. Paul’s Cathedral in London Bill Viola and Kira Perov have installed a permanent video installation. The work uses a strategy that borrows from both historical iconography of saints and cutting edge camera technology, that slows time to a near standstill. Four figures trapped in the amber of high-definition video twist and shift through water, fire, earth, and air. Though the technology is more recent, one has the same invitation to stare as the drama unfolds as in the paintings of Caravaggio. In our current moment, of rapid fire images, this invitation to stare is becoming rarer. It still exists though in churches, mosques, pagodas, places of worship. This is somehow appropriate.
Statues of the Buddha and Bodhisatvas:
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art one thing becomes clear when looking at statues and depictions of the gods. The Greeks and Romans favored body-builder deities, washboard abs, and calves as crisply defined as twisted rope. Most depictions of Jesus Christ bare the traces of those many hours in the gym spent by Greek and Roman athletes. Depictions of the Buddha and Bodhisatvas on the other hand, bear a certain suppleness, an effortlessness which may be no less disciplined.
Adolf Loos’ House for Josephine Baker:
Adolf Loos, the celebrated Viennese modernist architect once designed a house for Josephine Baker. Josephine Baker was an African-American entertainer who grew up playing in the railroad yards of St. Louis and later mesmerized Europe as a singer and dancer. There is no evidence that she had ever met Adolf Loos, or asked him to design a home for her. Still he did, a geometric black and white marble home, with an indoor pool that had a viewing window so that Baker’s guests could watch her swim. Loos believed in a unity of architecture and living, a certain intertwined-ness of self and environment. Josephine Baker transcended whatever architecture in which she found herself, be it social or concrete.
These are some key words, reverse inspirations perhaps, from Benjamin Kimitch’s new piece at Danspace Project, Ko-bu. The work itself uses stillness, architecture, sound, light and time, as its primary tools, both recalling, remixing, re-inventing elements and dynamics from the texts, objects, worlds, and pieces cited above.
Image credit for Andy Warhol Blowjob 1963, 16mm film Black and white, silent, 41 minutes at 16 frames per second; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Photo 2007 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved. SEDUCED: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now 12 October 2007 27 January 2008 Barbican Art Gallery, London