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A Body in Tokyo: An Interview with Eiko Otake

Tell us about yourself. How did you become an artist?

I studied briefly with Kazuo Ohno and left Japan when I was 20. In Europe, I started to perform professionally as Eiko & Koma. Read my full bio here.

What was your first job in the art field?

I always worked on my own choreography and performance in the ’70s and came to New York in 1976. In the ’80s, I also started to make dance for camera works and other media works and films.

What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

My work focuses on movement and the body, incorporating themes of self-curation and carrying bodies where I can learn what I can only learn in certain places. I then will bring that back to my audiences using my body as a conduit. I also want to make films and videos that only a performer can create.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

For me, working on a project is way beyond just creating pieces. We need to think for a long time—with whom do I work and for whom I work and how? I need to learn and have dialogues throughout the process.

Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

I am influenced by Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski and his film series Dekalog.

How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

We learned that gathering together to watch a film in the same place with others is an analog experience that we need to be human. Watching films at home through the Internet is very different.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

The advice I give to aspiring artists is to just do it but not be too concerned about expressing your view.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

If people can learn how to watch and think, it makes us move more slowly but more articulate and human.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

I am 71 and started my 10-year project last year titled I Invited Myself. It is a multi-volume installation, which features choreography of place, movements of both performer and viewers, along with projections of selected video and film works I created over the last 40 years. The project displays my trajectory as a visual landscape for performances, which I hope contextualize my current body for diverse generations of audiences now and in the future. The first volume was presented at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2022, and the second volume is currently being presented by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.


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