Ryutaro Mishima and Darla Villani in Nami Yamamotoï¿½s the last word was PAPIREPOSE. Photo by Nicholas Goldberg.
BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Brooklyn, NY
March 4–5, 2005
Reviewed by Jim Dowling
Nami Yamamoto’s the last word was PAPIREPOSE defies attempted explanations. The stark, uncompromising product of a two-year BAX residency takes form as a procession of scenes with evocative names like “a visitor in my window” and “a pair of steep eyes.”
Kiyoko Kashiwagi and Johanna S. Meyer set the striking tone with an opening image of harpies howling as they shrink together to the floor. A film clip by Toki Ozaki zooms toward an enigmatic squiggle that might be no more than a kinked bit of hair. Impossibly skinny Ryutaro Mishima stares through us like the anti-hero of yakuza films, the stylish equivalent of gangster B movies. When he beats his hands to within an inch of his chest, we find ourselves laughing uncomfortably at his rapt concentration.
Three tortured solos introduce the body of the work. Long-limbed Darla Villani skips in place to an Italian folk song, driving herself past exhaustion. Yamamoto, eschewing her facility for flowing movement, performs a series of reined-in half turns. Jean Vitrano pulls herself, with flailing arms and legs, across the floor.
Human interactions prove darkly entertaining. Mishima arrives with Villani, decked out in black-and-white fake fur. Her face forms a pained mask as she attempts to walk straight through him. He responds with a courtly English country dance, before they mime a romantic ballad from a recording by the Japanese-Italian duo Hide and Rosanna.
After Arturo Vidich negotiates a solo of 360-degree leaps and fractured Japanese phrases, Mishima returns with Takemi Kitamura, her porcelain features crowned by curlers. They perform pratfalls by leaping straight into each other’s arms, then use their knees to brutally steer one another along the floor. Only after Mishima finally catches and holds her in midair does Kitamura’s face reveal, with defiance and regret, the extent of her need.
The women from the opening scene return to reinforce our sense of this moment. Their tense tea ceremony soon escalates to swordplay, yet when Meyer pins Kashiwagi against a wall, aggression flags. Kashiwagi tries different paths to gain an embrace from the sitting Meyer till she slides, face turned upward, under Meyer’s arm. Meyer accepts this overture, holding Kashiwagi and her thrashing legs in the failing light.
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