Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 4 | Winter 1985 (Seattle) /// Issue 14 of 24 /// Master# 62 of 73

O n September 10 of this year, Sankai Juku (Studio from the Land of the Mountain and the Sea), the celebrated Buto dance troupe from Japan, performed one of their internationally acclaimed ‘‘public hangings" in Seattle 's Pioneer Square as a free exhibition to announce their series of evening performances scheduled for later that week. The crowd, estimated later to number around 1,000 lunchtime spectators, fell silent as Ushio Amagatsu, founder of the troupe, appeared atop the 6- story Mutual Life Building holding a large conch aloft, posihg as if transfixed, to a loudspeaker accompaniment of rumbling earthquake sounds and songs of humpbacked whales. Four hairless, nearly nude male dancers, bodies painted white, climbed over'the metal brackets at the edge of the building with thick, hempen ropes tied around their ankles. Slowly, to the unearthly calls of undersea intelligences, the fetal-positioned dancers began to be lowered, writhing in a primordial Dance of Birth and Death. This hanging work, performed in similar settings over a hundred times around the world (including the Olympic Festival in Los Angeles in 1984), would continue until the four reached the ground. It was scheduled to last approximately 25 minutes. Some 10 feet from the peak of their descent, under the stress of what appeared to be a too sudden, jerked playing out, the rope bearing Yoshiyuki Takada snapped, sending his still supine form hurtling to the pavement. He was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center some minutes later. his safety line attached, fell to his death the same day as Takada. For irony depends on distance, between the viewer and the viewed, a certain angle of vision that requires the detachment that representation often affords us. Some, staggered by the power of the first few minutes of the Dance of Birth and Death, reacted to the fall as they would to the mere image of such a fall. “What a cruel joke!” exclaimed one onlooker behind me. Another, without turning to face her, exclaimed incredulously, ‘‘Joke?" The first speaker was probably guilty of nothing more than a poor choice of words, but the choice itself reflects a certain moral confusion, a certain ironic distance inappropriate to the gravity of what we had witnessed and so quickly criticized by her respondent. Bl JW; NOTES TOWARD UNDERSTANDING THE DEATH OF YOSHIYUKI TAKADA Wide angle photo by Linda Novenski 26 Clinton St. Quarterly By James Winchell ike the sleeping amputee who feels a sudden, sear- JL=/ing pain and awakens confusedly clutching a missing limb, we who witnessed the fall of Yoshiyuki Takada have had to struggle with our notions of self, space and loss. When the rope snapped, its symbolic value—as the tenuous thread of life—vanished. The artwork—a visual metaphor fusing symbol and space, the concrete and the transcendental—ended at precisely that moment. To claim otherwise, to challenge somehow the difference between metaphor and mortality, would be morally indefensible. To claim that Yoshiyuki Takada’s death was symbolic, or fitting, or aesthetic, or even ironic, would dehumanize both speaker and victim. Such a claim would never be made by serious persons at the site of a freeway fatality; such a claim was certainly not made at the Tacoma Dome when a young roof cleaner, without Psychologists have enumerated several post-traumatic emotions likely to be experienced by those who witnessed Takada's death: guilt, anger, anguish, a generalized numbness, the seemingly compulsive need to “replay” the event, the feeling that “I can’t get it out of my mind.” Faced with the possible psychic damage, or at least extreme temporary discomfort, that may result from the absorption and reabsorption of such emotions, the “talking cure” is proposed as a means of conceptualizing and ultimately exorcising the side effects of this public tragedy. Sankai Juko proposes a “ceremony for the audience,” a ritual so constant that the onlookers actually undergo some sort of transformation from their status as spectators into some collective-yet-indi- viduated part of the dance itself. Yet the ambiguity inherent in this particular transformation—the sheer power