‘Black Box’ | reviews
Translation of review:
‘Review of Black Box’ in Talking Heads magazine no. 52
by Nobuo Shiga
Dominique BB (Baron-Bonarjee), who is based in England, has been visiting Japan in order to research Butoh and the Japanese avant-garde, but she is also primarily devoted to her own performance work, appearing on stage at the Kazuo Ohno Festival 2013 with Yoshito Ohno’s pupils.
This time, she performed “Black Box” at the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio. She wore a sliced black rubber tube costume and appeared with a full mask but with the face on the back of her head. We can find this kind of pattern of wearing the mask ‘back to front’ in Europe, but her appearance still gave the audience a rather powerful impact. The performance progressed with her now naked from the waist up, then she emerges with a crimson cockscomb flower and red costume. Her performance, which cleaved to “expression and shape” gave us great expectations of what she would show us next.
The highlight was the scene when she immersed her long hair into the small box of black liquid at the left of the stage. She submerged her head and after a while, unrolled Japanese writing paper from the side of the black box, and dragged her hair down this long stretch of shodo; in other words, she made her hair into a writing brush, and drew black ink traces like calligraphy.
Noise-music played live was also aptly suited to the piece. Her well blended mix of Butoh and performance brought created great interest.
‘A search for a new invisible space appearing directly from the body – Dominique BB’s Black Box’ by Shinichi Takeshige
This performance/stage is divided into two halves: first half dressed in black and the second half dressed in red. Each part seems to symbolize Death and Life through the simplicity of this beautiful contrast of colours, although more importance is placed on black as the title suggests. It expresses life within death rather than expressing life and death.
Many objects appear on the stage, ikebana comprised of drift wood and red flowers by Yosei Morishita placed on the left of the stage, a transparent cube box filled with black liquid placed on the front right. In the latter half each audience was handed a black egg which contained the programme paper. These objects pleasantly engage you to think about their metaphorical meanings. But never forget that Dominique is searching for a new invisible space which only comes out of her body, beyond any intellectual meanings. The word ‘black box’ also means theatre but I think in this case, the black box conjures up space/the universe. Space usually makes you imagine an unlimited vast expanse,and in contrast she imagines the box as a closed and framed concrete space.
It is not only nothingness (mu), but here ‘nothing’ has a form, this is exactly the space that butoh is searching for. It especially came into view at the beginning of the piece, influenced by Japanese Noh Theatre, Dominique wore a black long skirt and a black tube-like dress, her head was covered by a black cap, she wore a mask and she gradually walked towards front from the back of the stage/alcove with her arms folded in front of her. She used the venue, the Kazuo Ohno Butoh Institute, very well. A time flow from the past drifted up in her spatial walk, her skill of walking made it possible, feeling carefully with the sole of the foot, her body not opening easily as she seemed held in the past, she could powerfully transmit her own memories into the space. And then I kept looking at her figure and felt a sense of incongruity: she was actually walking backwards, but that was hidden by the black tube costume, her body cut into pieces, upper body, legs arms and head, giving off some eroticism like H.Bellmer’s doll. She shook our usual body sense through this in spite of her seeming to walk normally facing front. She had succeeded in creating a space with an original atmosphere which combined death / corpse by equating it with the mask.
On the whole, she didn’t yet have the skill to effect a metamorphosis of the body, and there were some less charming parts as a dance performance, but the direction of what she was searching for was always in the same strong focused direction, I thought it never became distracted. In the last part, she wears a red dress, and putting her long hair into sumi ink liquid in the box, and marked the white roll of paper which was pulled out from the side of the box little by little, in spite of it not seeming like dance, it came into existence as a dance because of the beauty of form which was physically controlled.
And it was excellent that she quoted from Japanese traditional culture/Ikebana, Noh, Calligraphy, and appropriated them well instead of falling into orientalism. Arihiro Yamada played instruments and improvised, creating the perfect sound for the place.