Min Tanaka presents Subject: Heuristic Ecdysis

December 5–December 19, 1999

From December 5th to 19th, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents Subject: Heuristic Ecdysis, a series of performances by Min Tanaka. Taking place in various interior and exterior locations at P.S.1, Wednesday through Sunday, these performances mark the 20th anniversary of Tanaka’s first dance at P.S.1. Subject: Heuristic Ecdysis continues his “Life Contract” with P.S.1, a new annual series of events for which Tanaka has committed to return to P.S.1 each year for the duration of his life.

This rare series of solo performances is the first opportunity in many years to see Min Tanaka dance alone. As the title suggests, the artist transforms and rediscovers himself through dance. The term “ecdysis” is used in entomology and recalls the annual journey of a monarch butterfly. Similarly, the “Life Contract” marks time and enables a life-sustaining metamorphosis. Min Tanaka divests himself of layers (clothing, objects, other dancers, and layers of his own history) not to re-invent, but to realize the nascent dancer in himself.

Having danced at P.S.1 many times over the past twenty years, Min has now committed to return to P.S.1 annually, as a point of reflection. Subject: Heuristic Ecdysis is a chapter in a diary. Similar to the oral tradition of myth-making, the creation of a personal mythology is recorded in our memories and the memories of our observers. One volunteer observer will bear witness to the entirety of his performances this year, creating a vital sensory and memory archive in the mind and body of another person.

Born in 1945, Min Tanaka grew up in suburban Tokyo, where he began to study modern dance and perform in several productions. In the early 1970s he began to create original dance works exploring the meaning of the body and movement through improvisation. In an attempt to free the body from functionalism and conventional aesthetics, his dances were often nude, taking place in urban as well as natural settings.

Between 1982 and 1986, he worked closely with Tatsumi Hijikata, founder and powerful guiding spirit of the uniquely Japanese, contemporary dance tradition Butoh, which originated in post-WWII Japan. Although Butoh is as varied as the dancers who perform it, one common factor of all Butoh is the preparation each dancer undergoes before the dance, linking it to traditional forms of meditation and martial art training. Butoh derives its power from the individual dancer in a very mental as well as physical sense. It is a directing of energy to the audience from surroundings. Tanaka continues to be active in collaborating with visual artists, musicians, opera companies, theatre and dance troupes in Japan and internationally.

Visitors can meet with Min Tanaka from 5-6pm on the days of his performances at P.S.1. He will be working in his room on the second floor, where New York video artist Charlie Steiner will show footage of Tanaka from the past two decades. Steiner plans to document this new project as well.

 

This project was organized by curator Kazue Kobata in collaboration with P.S.1 Director, Alanna Heiss and P.S.1 Senior Curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, and is made possible thanks to the support of the Asian Cultural Council.

Special thanks to Warren Neisluchowski who has offered to be an audience member for each performance of Subject: Heuristic Ecdysis. Min Tanaka will also be performing at Performance Space 122 (P.S.122) on December 3 and 4 at 11 p.m.