From the Symbolic to the Tactile

Table of Contents

The revenant is one of the major concepts of Jacques Derrida, defined as “a non-present presence that does not exist in reality, but which cannot be forgotten and obstinately returns (revenir) to influence reality.” The theme of the Toga seminar, “Representing the Ghostly Body,” as proposed by the organizer Hiroki Azuma, connects this concept of the ghost with the question of the social reach of bodily expressions in performing arts in the present age, which is becoming increasingly information-based. In the first joint discussion held on the first day of the seminar, the artist Kazuki Umezawa and the choreographer Jo Kanamori each presented on this theme as it relates to their own work, and a discussion was held afterwards among the sociologist Masachi Osawa, the critic Atsushi Sasaki, and Azuma.
Umezawa belongs to the digital native generation. As an artist, he expresses the internet with its excess of information in paintings. His production style, printing digital collages and improving them, involves little movement of the body, except the violent driving of the fingertips. To provide an example of his driven fingertips in from digital culture, he played a music video game for the audience, mentioning that the dynamism of access itself――the fact that with just the click of a mouse his fingertips are connected to the limitlessness of the internet――represents to him embodiment and reality.
Kanamori, heading the dance collective Noism, opined that to those involved in dance in Japan, the “West” is the largest ghost. According to him, Japanese dancers are neither the antithesis to nor the imitation of the West, and they should create a new dance synthesizing the West and the East. He then introduced the “Noism method,” a unique training method for bodily control, influenced by the theater of Tadashi Suzuki and devised by examining Japanese bodily sensations anew.
Sasaki in turn considers Umezawa’s touch in painting and Kanamori’s question of control in dance as issues of “whether painting becomes painting due to touch” and “where movement becomes dance,” asking whether what exists in those gaps is itself the ghost. Azuma enumerates that this interpretation of the ghost is similar to Osawa’s concept of the “instance of the third person.” Osawa states that what exists in the interspace between presence and non-presence was originally supposed to be an entity that “exists even though it is unclear whether or not it exists,” but today it appears on screens; now, recollecting even the sensation of touch is itself new.
Finally, Azuma recapitulates the discussion, elaborating that art and philosophy ought to become an interface connecting this world to the next world, and he indicates that the idea of “touch,” repeated throughout the discussion, can act as a key for considering the possibilities of bodily expression today.