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Saturday, November 21, 2015

In the Realm of the Senses 2

"Spectator"
Choreographed by Shuji Onodera
Japan Society, New York
November 13, 2015
by Tom Phillips 
Spectator julie_lemberger-0783Amidst flying furniture and bodies, an ordinary piece of fruit --  an orange -- commands the stage in Shuji Onodera's dance/ mime/ theatre piece "Spectator."  The orange is bowled across the floor, passed from hand to hand, or held in place while seven acrobatic performers take turns supporting it. It's an object of curiosity, then of contention as two women fight for control, with one finally plunging a knife into it, driving the other to fling a fit. The action is presided over by a pretty female narrator, who introduces herself as a writer and the piece as a love story. But then she's a waitress, and still later a housewife suspected in the disappearance of her husband, who's been cleverly stuffed into an attache case.  What's going on?  We can't really say, and that turns out to be the key to the pleasures of "Spectator."  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hiroshima Journal

-- By Tom Phillips

Hiroshima is the only city in the world with a trolley stop called "Atomic Bomb Dome," and I shuddered inwardly every time we passed it.  It's by the shell of a building just a quarter-mile from the bomb blast, a building that somehow remained standing, though everyone in it was killed instantly, vaporized by the heat. 

Later it survived an effort by the local government to tear it down, to remove a symbol of the city's destruction.  In the end Hiroshima decided to leave it standing, as a reminder -- a rare public protest in a country that usually prefers to cover things up. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

In the Realm of the Senses

Nansen-ji, Kyoto
-- By Tom Phillips

In college, more than fifty years ago, I was shocked to learn that the ancient Greeks gave Ethics a higher value than Aesthetics.  In my private pantheon, beauty was paramount, and included or implied every other virtue.  I believed instinctively in Keats's Ode on a Grecian Urn --  "Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty, -  that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

A few years later I became a student of Zen Buddhism, which seemed to treat the two as one -- beauty as a realization of truth. This year I fulfilled a lifelong dream, touring Japan and contemplating the beauty of  Zen gardens.  And it was there that I finally, sadly, laid Keats's romantic illusion to rest.