Recycling: Washi Tales (Performance 1)
NEW YORK, March 24, 2016 — Recycling: Washi Tales is a performance that brings to life the stories contained in sheets of washi, Japanese handmade paper, as they are recycled through time. Amidst an evocative set of cascading handmade paper and shadows, four stories of spiritual devotion, beauty, love, and tragedy unfold, shaping an intimate theatrical world of old Japan. (1 hr., 3 min)
For more information about the March 25 performance, please click here.
Recycling: Washi Tales is a performance that brings to life the stories contained in sheet of washi, Japanese handmade paper, as it is recycled through time. Amidst an evocative set of cascading handmade paper and shadows, four stories of spiritual devotion, beauty, love, and tragedy unfold, shaping an intimate theatrical world of old Japan. Karen Kandel performs as the Papermaker, the narrator who weaves together the stories, alongside the interplay of a magical world created by haunting Buddhist Shomyo chant, the punctuation of otsuzumi drum, and the lyrical music of the biwa (plucked lute). Something new emerges from the old as Washi Tales explores aesthetic and spiritual values of recycling, beyond practical environmental concerns, into the realms of history and the imagination. The evening is designed by master paper artist Kyoko Ibe.
Watch a preview video by Hiro Odaira here:
With Kyoko Ibe (Designer); Elise Thoron (Writer/Director); Karen Kandel (The Papermaker/ Writer); Shonosuke Okura (Noh Otsuzumi Drummer); Shisui Arai (Biwa Player); Makiko Sakurai (Actor/Fujiawa Tamiko); and Sonoko Soeda (Actor/Oshin).
Nicole Pearce (Lighting Designer); Cody Chen (Production Stage Manager); Tamura Tadashi (Papermaker); Hiro Odaira (Washi Consultant)
Tale 1: “Najio River” is a legend from the Edo period, which tells of a papermaker and her daughter who embark on a journey from their village, Echizen, to find the papermaker’s disappeared husband. Mother and daughter travel to Najio, her husband’s native town, where they are making paper just like in Echizen. Her husband has brought back secrets of the craft, but no one in the village will tell her where he is. She learns her husband already has a wife and child in Najio. The mother knows she will never be accepted in the village, but perhaps her daughter will be. Walking away from the village alone, she loses herself in the beautiful reflection of cherry trees by the river. Her drowned body is found, covered with petals and fine clay, which her daughter uses to make a sheet of paper, the new paper so heavy with clay it does not burn. Thus Najio’s “fireproof” paper is discovered; based on a contemporary short story by Tsutomu Minakami.
Tale 2: “Sen no Rikyu” tells the tale of a 16th century tea master to the powerful Shogun Hideyoshi, who designs a tea house with recycled paper walls. The house is so perfect and humble it defies the Shogun’s power. The tea master is asked to die for his audacity. His legacy creates the simplicity of wabi sabi aesthetic and tea ceremony.
Tale 3: “Hogosho” (scrap paper) springs from Kyoko Ibe’s most recent work, a series of panels incorporating hand written documents from a 19th century village in Northern Japan including tax records, deeds, lists of wedding gifts, instructions for building a temple. The words are no longer legible, but the human hand is still present. As the Papermaker begins to recycle old documents she hears rustling, laughter, and voices from the Northern village whispering, singing about the land and the life gone by. Rice fields, wedding feasts, an illegal geisha… worlds coming loose from the fiber… she struggles to capture them before they are lost.
Tale 4: “Fujiwara Tamiko” is about the 9th-Century Emperor Seiwa’s beloved consort. Upon his death she recycles love letters and poems he wrote her to make paper on which she writes sutras for his soul’s peace. She gives the sutras to his family and friends. This incident is the first recorded instance of recycling in Japanese chronicles: a woman transforming loss into prayer.
Presented with support from The Japan Foundation and Asian Cultural Council
Held in conjunction with the exhibition Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan, on view at Asia Society Museum from February 9 to May 8, 2016