The Kabuki Project is a personal creative journey into a subject which seemed alien yet attractive visually and conceptually. I had no idea where it would take me but I felt that it was inspiring enough that I could produce a major body of work from what I would discover in the study.
As I have moved through this project I have come to realize that Kabukimono still exists in the streets, music clubs, music videos, and anywhere that young people come together to express themselves.
Kama-kura Gon-gorō is the most recognized Kabuki character. His long hair with strips of paper woven in, brightly colored cloths and face paint reveal him to be the romantic hero from the 10th century. He turns to the audience, strikes his me pose, eyes crossed to express the intensity of his emotion.
In the early days of Kabuki the Shogun of Edo, concerned for social morality, forbade women from performing on stage relegating them only to houses of pleasure. From then on female roles were only performed by adult men.
Fudō-Myōō is one of the "Wisdom Kings" and an esoteric Buddhist Deity who fights evil and protects ascetic priests. He binds up demons with his rope and with his sword drives people to salvation with fear and terror.
Shi-shi-my is a mythological, lion-like animal and is well know throughout Asia. The Shi-shi Lion Dancer has long floor length hair which he artfully flings about into the faces of the audience. To be bitten by Shi-shi-my brings one good luck and heath for the year.
Hiyori is the bass player in the band Kiryu. As in the Kabuki theater, where female roles are performed by men, Visual kie bands usually have one member who is made up to be female. Gender identity is merely a matter of fashion, it's only a question of conforming to one or the other.
Kabuku - to deviate In the 1500's in the streets of Edo, Japan the kabuku people, the kabukimono entertained one another with song, dance and stories of adventure. They wore wild hairstyles and elaborate clothing, they set the fashion trends of the day and created the Kabuki Theater.
The fabrics and the costume designs are an intrinsic part of Kabuki. They color and define the spectacle upon which the play is based. Every aspect of Kabuki is of equal importance and requires meticulous attention to detail.
There are different styles of Kabuki. Aragoto, is a rough, bombastic style using exaggerated, dynamic forms of movement and speech. The actors wear bold makeup and large deep colored costumes. They may carry oversized swords to portray valiant warriors, fierce gods or demons.
Wagoto, the "gentle style" emphasizes a more realistic presentation. speech and gesture in wagoto is delicate, movement and dance embraces the graceful human form. Wagoto Kabuki is for erotic love stories, tragic dramas and comedies.
The theater is as important as anything else. In front the marque displays the three kanji characters that symbolize Kabuki - Sing, Dance, Skill. The audience sits amidst walkways designed for dramatic entrances and exits. As the curtain drops to the floor the play begins.
The stage is set to create the scene in which the story will unfold. Behind the red gate, passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger, and adventure can all take place. As the actors arrive on stage they feel at home within the drama.
Did Anni Albers ever go to Japan? I don't think so, but if she had she would have recognized the universal nature of design and form yet untouched by the still warm flames of the recent past.
As the human spirit begins to emerge and make its way to the light, constrained by society, most will conform. In following the path that has been imposed upon them, they in turn will try to impose it upon the next generation.
The Kabikimono perceive the world around them from a different perspective. The reality they create at first seems strange to conventional society, but soon society is changed by their vision. Tradition lies upon the minds of the living like a corps.
Simple, attractive forms and colors are the backdrop of contemporary Japanese pop culture. Building upon such design elements, fresh new ideas and technologies can be presented and embraced by many in society.