The work, Dance of the Dead refers to both; the kimono like costume as well as the performance based installation featuring such costume. The entire garment is made from old kimonos that have been hand cut into heart shaped pieces and hand-stitched together. Symbolically unifying the worlds of the living and the dead together, the garment personifies the weeping willow and the rising phoenix. Both tree and bird share similar physical attributes, while each can be understood to represent its opposite. Combined into a singular form they dance together without separation.
This work was inspired by O’Bon Odori (Dance of the Dead) of Nishimonai, a small town in Northern Japan. The ritual of O’Bon Odori is celebrated throughout Japan. However, the costumes used in Nishimonai are different from the rest of the country. In Nishimonai, the dancers wear patchworked kimonos said to be made from their ancestor’s garments. In this way, the ritual of O’Bon seems to be embodied at a deeper level, enhanced by the solemnity of the music and dance movements in comparison to the bouncy, cheerful way O’Bon is celebrated elsewhere in the country. During the Nishimonai festival their faces are never seen, and it is one of their head coverings that I adopted for my costume.
After having spent time studying and practicing the traditional O’Bon Odori of Nishimonai, I choreographed my own dance for the performance based installation of my textile work. The installation for this work was designed under site specific qualifications. The work was to feature an architectural element of the city’s Prefectural building, in my case: the windows on the second floor. These chosen windows looked out upon the inner courtyard, and this is where my private performance was photographed so that later when the mylar images were installed in the windows, a double vision impression was created bringing into question the relationship between the seen and unseen worlds.
This work was part of the series of seven installations created over a two year period while living in Kyoto, Japan as a Monbukagakusho scholarship recipient. This work was initially exhibited at the Kyoto City Municipal Museum of the Arts and later at the Kyoto City Prefectural Building, 2009.