Reinterpreting butoh's history to reimagine its future
An Empty Room is a transformative journey through butoh, an avant-garde form of performance art that originated in Japan in the late 1950's and is now a global phenomenon. This is the first book about butoh authored by a scholar-practitioner who combines personal experience with ethnographic and historical accounts alongside over twenty photos. Author Michael Sakamoto traverses butoh dance history from its roots in post-World War II Japan to its diaspora in the West in the 1970s and 1980s. An Empty Room delves into the archive of butoh dance, gathering testimony from multiple generations of artists active in Japan, the US, and Europe. The book also creatively highlights seminal visual and written texts, especially Hosoe Eikoh's photo essay, "Kamaitachi," and Hijikata Tatsumi's early essays. Sakamoto ultimately fashions an original view of what butoh has been, is and, more importantly, can be through the lens of literary criticism, photo studies, folklore, political theory, and his experience performing, photographing, teaching, and lecturing in 15 countries worldwide.
Acknowledgments • Preface • Introduction: (My) Butoh • Chapter 1: Developing a Practice • Chapter 2: Imagining Innocence Lost • Chapter 3: An Empty Room • Chapter 4: Desire • Chapter 5: Trickster • Chapter 6: In the Soil • List of illustrations • Notes • Bibliography • Index
"Sakamoto delves into the complexity of his identity as a Japanese American equally at home in African American culture, while simultaneously defining, critiquing, and empowering the dance form butô so that it can continue to serve as a means to negotiate the ever-present crises facing humanity."~Bruce Baird, professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst
"Sakamoto takes seriously the imperative, 'find your own butoh,' and in so doing moves through and beyond his own practice to imagine a generative butoh available to individuals and communities as a kind of resistive cultural commons. An Empty Room is at once a major contribution to butoh scholarship as well as a model for a rigorous and rousing praxis on the page."~Rosemary Candelario, author of Flowers Cracking Concrete: Eiko & Koma's Asian/American Choreographies