After exploring the characteristics of the African dance “Batuka”, and its beautiful wax fabric, I ended up going back to my adoration for Japanese culture. My visit to the PAD museum thursday 5th of April, where I saw African masks, helped me finding similarities between African and Asian cultures. I was also inspired by Serge Mouangue, a Cameroonian artist whose own cultural heritage and interest in the particular refinement of Japanese design inspired Wafrica, a project which « encapsulates both West Africa and Japanese ancient sophisticated aesthetic to create a new territory, redefining our sense of origin”.
The Buyō (日本 舞 踊) is the traditional art of dance and mime in Japan, appearing at the beginning of the Edo period (XVIIe) from older traditions. Although performed independently by specialists, it is particularly associated with the dance style performed by geishas. Over time, It has been enriched by elements borrowed from other scenic arts such as kabuki and folk arts. Performed in kimono, Nihon Buyô has its origins in kabuki theater, and is showing great vitality today. More than 100 different schools are performing this discipline nowadays, including those of “Hanayagi” and “Nishikawa”, which were behind the founding of major schools of Japanese dance. Often spectacular, the dance is characterized by the complexity of its aesthetic codes and the sumptuous beauty of its costumes. Nihon Buyô’s plays are also danced in the form of a recital and emphasized the choreographic rather than the theatrical aspect, and the visual dimension prevails. This form of dance is characterized by fluidity in the succession of movements, which suggests elegance, refinement and control of emotion. It respects very sophisticated stylistic and aesthetic codes, which do not prevent great freedom of interpretation in contemporary creations.
I explored the characteristics of Japan’s dance as well as its movements in space, by recreating the Buyo dance universe in photography. I wanted to immortalized the trajectory of the japanese dance movement using lights. This line up transforms a concrete environment into an abstract landscape. Time, colors, blurred and sharper shapes transcribe the atmosphere of the place. The sunset was the perfect moment to obtain a contrast, this quiet evening then becomes dynamic by the luminous movements of lamp posts and houses. The graphic styles of the photos give the impression of a floating and dynamic space, where the created light overlays on several planes.
The influence of the African fabric rigidity on the dancers movements caught my attention during my trip in Cap Vert. I decided to play with this rigidity principle, integrating the characteristics of the Buyo traditional Japanese dance. While studying the African Batuka, I was able to draw the dancers silhouettes in real life, and integrate graphic qualities inspired by the materials of the place. I created two pieces incorporating unconventional materials, and after some research, I opted for aluminum whose plastic characteristics allowed me to mold it on many surfaces, although it is quite fragile. Its lightness, ductility, malleability, reflective properties, impermeability made me want to work with aluminium as a fascinating material. The idea of reproducing the real, the human body, brought me to explorethe possibility of molding faces and create fictitious representations of characters, as the Japanese masks. This material creates a semblance of metal where the masks would be extremely resistant (while very light) As an armor to protect themselves contrasting with the magnitude that can take the movements of the dance.
If the art of collage, composition and assembly are often associated with the inventions of cubists, the process actually takes its roots in art well before the twentieth century. The juxtaposition of different subjects has often fascinated the curiosity of non-academic artists. This technique is at the heart of the fantastic compositions of the mannerist Arcimboldo whose paintings strike with their delirious appearance. It is no doubt an amiable fantasy to skillfully assemble flowers, fruits, and fish, so as to bring out at the end faces or characters composed only of elements belonging to the same series. In the Archimoldo way, not with fruits but with body members such as two intertwined hands, a face or feet, I create an unusual, disturbing assemblage. I tried to create a paradox using the principle of the mask, but placed on the body, creating unconventional shapes. The body normally moves, but It works with the slow and delicate Japanese dance.
During the process, I molded barbies with aluminium to test my ideas.
Book of the Process
From these experimentations, I created two completely different garments, both working on molded body members, but used diferently. One of these pieces is a transparent kimono, filed with molded aluminium body members (hands, toes, faces) solidified by the expansive mousse, a technic inspired by César Expansions, playing with chance, escaping from the human control. Through transparency effects, the kimono is arranged in front of a large textured poster, representing a montage of a moving scanned emergency blanket, behind cutouts of masks.
The second piece is an aluminium garment, molded on a mannequin, made of previously molded body members. I molded body parts of women and men, to create balance, an equality having a multitude of features of the body. Indeed, at the time, women could not participate in theatrical performances such as No Theater, and to replace them, men put masks of women by usurping their identities. Both pieces represent the ambiguity of the sexes and the human nature since it is difficult to distinguish the body parts. I was searching for ways to express diversity, harmony and piece. Searching for ways to express a new esthetic by the transformation of timeless iconic symboles in response to the argument that globalization may rob us of cultural identity. My work explores the relationship between unconventional material and its contact to the body, and reflective light created by the material, and personnaly opened the question of how to distort the body in fashion for future projects.
Final presentation :
Mockup for a future project :