TPAM Co-Production: Pichet Klunchen Interview | Death is a happy thing, death is a beautiful thing.
interview&Text: Fumi Yokobori Photo(portrait): Masamasa Nishino
"Peterkorn Festival" and Pichet's view of life and death are linked
P: Pichet F: Fumi Yokobori (Interviewer)
F: I read on the TPAM website that the Peter Cohn Festival was the inspiration for the production of your new work, ``Dancing with Death.'' What impressed you about the "Peterkorn Festival"?
P: When I first saw the Peterkorn Festival, I was interested in seeing the local people creating their own festival. They created art by fusing local culture, Buddhism, and superstition. Spirits are called "pi" in Thai, and that image stood out to me. Locals believe that ghosts and spirits have no beginning, no end, and are constantly transforming themselves. And spirits are said to represent human feelings. Also, we use familiar materials for the festival costumes and masks. For example, Kamen uses coconut leaves, shells, and a steamer for sticky rice. The costumes also include discarded clothes and a monk's yellow robe. When local people decided on their own costumes and masks, they made full use of their own superstitions and knowledge. Also, the way the festival is created is to make the two time periods of "death" and "reality" appear three-dimensionally and make them coexist in the same place. In other words, the structure was such that spirits and humans were placed in the same place. Normally, people involved in the arts often create a structure of "audience" and "self", "here" and "now" when creating a stage, but local people who have never studied art I thought it was interesting that they were creating similar structures and creating their own art. Through this festival, I learned a lot of things, but among them, I got the impression that death is a happy thing and that death is a beautiful thing. This is what first inspired me.
F: Lastly, please tell us a little more about what Mr. Pichet said: ``Death is a happy thing, death is a beautiful thing.'' I think that in all of Pichet's works to date, "death" is involved, whether directly or indirectly. I get the impression that Pichet's views on life and death come out more clearly in this new work. What do you think?
P: Yes. Most of my works express things related to death. In the first place, I think humans are beings who want to be superior to everything and want to win. For example, when it comes to nature, we can make it rain. It is possible to control the amount of water by storing water in a dam. Now we can go beyond Earth and into space. However, if there is one thing that humans cannot defeat, it is death, and death cannot be controlled. I don't think there is much of a perfect nature left these days, but I think death is the only perfect nature, and I think of it as "rebirth." That's why I think death is beautiful. Also, in a performance on stage, death is the only thing that can never be created. For example, on stage we can eat things and lie down, but we cannot express death. I think it's good to express death in various ways on stage. The locals of the Peterkorn Festival divide a person into three parts when a person dies: the body, the spirit, and the heart. Based on this idea, we expressed "death" at the festival. Death is usually scary for humans. However, I think that the festival conveys that death is familiar and that death is not something to be scared of.
F: Does the “rebirth” you mentioned earlier mean “rebirth” where one person dies and that death is replaced by the next new life?
P: "Rebirth" is a basic idea of Buddhism, but I don't really explain it in my work. For example, nature is "reborn", just like spring comes, summer comes, autumn comes, winter comes, and spring comes again. I believe that everything is "rebirth". I don't intend to summarize things like being born, dying, and being reborn again. After all, there are many different ways of thinking. However, the idea of ``regeneration'' has been a huge influence on this work. It shows up both in dance choreography and in the design of on-stage sets. It also appears in the structure of the work, which returns to the “beginning”. However, even if you return to the same place, it will be completely different from before. I celebrate my birthday on the same day every year, but it's not the same time, and I'm not the same person.
Shifting the methods used at the “Peterkorn Festival” to the work
F: Are there any specific ways in which you have incorporated the methods used in "Peterkorn Festival" into this work?
P: First of all, before making ``Dancing with Death,'' I started with research. I just compiled the results of that research into a book three months ago. While conducting research, I collected a variety of data and conducted interviews with local people. For example, people who make masks, mediums who perform rituals, etc. All of the resources we gathered are being utilized for this ``Dancing with Death.'' A concrete way to utilize the expression methods used at the festival in my work is to combine different natural elements one by one. Then, we regard them as one spirit. “Dancing with Death” uses these methods.
F: In "Dancing with Death," do you incorporate things that cannot coexist together, not just in the visuals like the costumes, but also in the choreography?
P: Yes, I use it in my choreography as well. Another thing we incorporated was the local ``personality''. It's about separating "body" and "emotions." When viewers watch this work, they will be using their "body," "emotions," and "thoughts." Furthermore, a distinct characteristic of the choreography is its repetition. We repeat the same thing once, twice, three times, but each time new things are born. The dance of the local people is improvised and develops rapidly, and the way they develop is a way to make use of their individuality and take advantage of the situation. I took advantage of that in my choreography.
F: So, the choreography for this piece is not all set in stone, and there is a possibility that it may change in various ways depending on the dancers' judgment.
P: In between.
First attempt at co-production between Asia
F: So, changing the topic, this work is a co-production between Asia. This is a co-production between Singapore's Esplanade and TPAM. I also heard that there are plans to tour Australia as well. I think there are still very few examples of co-production between Asian countries. Pichet has experience in many co-productions in his work in Europe, but what do you think about this co-production between Asia?
P: This is our first time co-producing in Asia. I don't think it's that different from the collaborative productions I've done up until now. However, there is one point that makes me think, ``This is different.'' When fellow Asians sit at the same table and plan, I get the feeling that we all have similar cultures and ideas. It's a really new feeling, and I think it's a great thing. I also think it's a good thing that Asian artists can receive support to create their works.
Predict upcoming dances
F: Lastly, let me ask you a personal question. Last year, I gave birth to a child. I've started thinking more and more about what society should be like 10 or 20 years from now. What kind of society do you think Pichet would like to have 10 or 20 years from now? And what do you think dance should be in that society?
P: If we look at the future 10 or 20 years from now, from an Asian perspective, dancers and choreographers alike will be creating works with a variety of ideas in mind. However, I think fewer people will train their bodies and minds. And everything, including tradition and modernity, is mixed together. Also, I think that a work of art cannot be a masterpiece. It ceases to exist for a moment. I predict that this will happen in the future. So, if you ask me, "What should I do?", I can only say that the younger generation does not train their bodies and minds, so if they were willing to train and made an effort to connect their bodies and minds. , the chances of success in the future are very high. If you have limited space and time, you can create things in a small space and go out into the wide world with a computer. The quantity may increase, but the quality decreases, and when you post something on Facebook, it gets 100,000 to 1 million likes within 1 to 30 seconds. I wonder if such a phenomenon will occur in the future.
F: Will Pichet still be creating works 10 years from now?
P: Yes. I'm still making music, and I'm still dancing. I'll dance until I die.
F: I want to continue watching it as long as I live.
P: It's still a long time. Maybe even to my grandchildren's generation. I'll practice more.
F: Thank you. The time has come.
P: I'm very excited to be performing this work at TPAM. I'm currently putting the finishing touches on it, and I'm trying to make it very dark. See you soon.
F: Thank you very much. I'm looking forward to it.