A visual artist and a choreographer come together for an Aug. 9 performance work that bears witness to the annihilation of two entire cities and the complex Japanese and American narratives therein.
Seventy-two years ago, American pilots dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To this day, historians debate whether, as the U.S. maintained, the bombings were necessary to end World War II in the Pacific Theater, or whether, as some critics hold, they constituted war crimes.
Visual artist Yukiyo Kawano and choreographer Meshi Chavez are the creators of “Suspended Moment,” a multidisciplinary performance work they developed with composer Lisa DeGrace and poet Allison Cobb.
Kawano is from Hiroshima; Chavez grew up in Albuquerque — close enough to the Manhattan Project to have a feel for the American side of this history. They’ve performed this work in places with strong ties to atomic history, like Los Alamos, New Mexico, the Hanford Site, and are now bringing it to Portland for a fifth incarnation.
Chavez’s practice is based in the Japanese performance style butoh. You may have seen it performed by dancers in white makeup, moving with infinitesimal slowness. But Chavez’s style is something more kinetic and stately. In some sequences, he puts himself through organic contortions, twisting and spinning almost out of control. Others are direct references to everyday activities on either side of the Pacific.
Here are some highlights of the conversation.