SOME/TALK : HIROAKI UMEDA

hiroaki umeda 'adapting for distortion' photography by alex

hiroaki umeda 'adapting for distortion' photography by alex

Hiroaki Umeda is a choreographer and a multidisciplinary artist now recognized as one of the leading figures of the Japanese avant-garde art scene. Since the launch of his company S20, his subtle yet violent dance pieces have toured around the world to audience and critical acclaim. His work is acknowledged for the highly holistic artistic methodology with strong digital back ground, which considers not only physical elements as dance, but also optical, sonal, sensorial and, above all, spatiotemporal components as part of the choreography. Based on his profound interest in choreographing time and space, Umeda has spread his talent not only as a choreographer and dancer, but also as a composer, lighting designer, scenographer and visual artist.

hiroaki umeda 'holistic strata' photography by ryuichi maruo

hiroaki umeda 'holistic strata' photography by ryuichi maruo

I wonder how you succeed in transmitting these visual units of information to our brains, which makes it so aesthetically appealing to watch? 

As I studied photography in the university, I think that I have strong interest and have strong doubts to visuals components especially. And I got to realise one day that dance must be visual art as I 'see' dance performance with eyes and that choreography must be really dependant on light. With those thoughts, I have taken more and more this visual way of approach to dance. 

You once said ‘When one has confidence on object’s facticity they name it real, and when this confidence is slightly undermined they rename it as virtual.’ How do you view the world with this perspective? 

For me, reality is not something that comes to you from outside, but is something to be determined by you. It means that reality is decided by how you get information of the world, how you take it, interpret it and consider it based on your belief. With this perspective, I can take more positive and spontaneous choices for thoughts. That may sound like a very egoistic way to see the world, but to be honest, I cannot take any other ways. So that is reality for me. 

In your pieces, per contra, the fact that humans exist on the equivalent level as all other natural and artificial entities is clearly emphasized. How did you transform this theory into a visual element for your pieces?

I consider 'visual element' on stage as dance and light, or dance and image. This is very simple. I just design light as light and dance as dance, not light for dance nor dance for light. Then I just think how I can place these two different 'existences' according to the artistic concept for the piece. 

You’ve successfully developed your own unique and distinctive style, how has growing up in an environment like Tokyo affected this? 

In Tokyo, everything changes so quickly and violently, building, shops, landscape, fashion and etc. It is often like something you liked or you were attached to disappears the next day as if that didn't exist. I have felt this a lot since I was a child. One of my strongest motivations for doing art is to seek for something that I can believe in. In the surroundings like Tokyo, I have to doubt what I see and what I hear. So what I am doing now in art is a consequence of what I have been trying to do: find things to believe. Adding to that, I have to tell you that the lighting landscape of Tokyo is so ugly and annoying…

hiroaki umeda 'haptic' photography by shin yamagata

hiroaki umeda 'haptic' photography by bertrand baudry

‘Impulse’ is considered as the seed and also the goal of your creation. You compose all stimulants on stage — light, sound, image and body. How do you share this ‘impulse’ with your audience? 

Through the performance and the body sensation of audience. For me, seeing the pieces is a physical experience. I want to, or more still, I have to give audiences a tangible bodily experience with a tangible physical sensation. Through this firm bodily experience, I try to share the impulse with the audience. 

What is the most powerful social validity that art can posses for you?

I believe that art can provide people with another sense of value, or another criterion for value judgement in society. 

What happens when the microscopic vision is inverted to a macroscopic perspective?

Either micro or macro, these visions are beyond our human-scale vision. So I imagine that, at least for me, there is no difference. For example, I have been putting on satellite and microscopic pictures randomly on the desktop of my PC. Visually they are both very beautiful. From the perspective of science or philosophy, you could discuss more about why they are both beautiful. But for me, as an artist, it is just visually the same. 

‘Man is merely a collective entity of particles, not so different from stones, ants and birds.’ Does this mean humans are intangible objects and cannot substantiate its existence? 

Human exists because we believe that human exists. I would say that I believe that human exist because I believe or I have many clues to believe in that potential fact. But this doesn't verify that human exists. In order to know the substance of humans, we have to define what a human is, but that definition comes out from a human so it is not purely objective…. So I decided to take a standpoint, for now, that humans exist as it is easier to get along in society, with doubts in my mind. Answering the question, humans cannot be substantiated. 

Are individuals contained within one body?

No. An individual is just one point among multiple connections or relations to the world.  

The difference between humans and objects, and certainty between individuality and entirety? 

Individuality is the effect and consequence of entirety. So you could say that individuality is entirety and entirety is individuality. To be more concrete, humans are the effects of the world. Objects are the effects of the world also. I really cannot tell what the difference is. 

Your philosophy in one sentence? 

Choice for believing.

Hiroaki Umeda is performing Holistic Strata and Haptic the 16th of October at COTE OUEST, Bordeaux, France