Features PerformanceQ&A and Interviews Published 16 May 2014

Between the Genres

Ahead of a triple bill at The Place, Mamoru Iriguchi discusses how his idiosyncratic practice fits into dance.
Lewis Church

On the 28th May Mamoru Iriguchi, who has been making his odd, charming and unique performances since 2008, will present a triple-bill of performances at The Place, as part of the London dance venue’s Spring Loaded season, an annual festival of new work devoted to ‘where dance is going next’.

Iriguchi is however wary of that characterisation of his practice. “I’m not saying I’m the future of dance, no! I don’t think so! There is little ‘dance’ in my pieces, but I think that good theatre is good dance as well. Also, body images are something that’s part of the dance language now, not just movement but also the image you create. I don’t mind if someone were to say ‘that’s not dance’, but I think that playing with what dance or choreography is is good.”

Iriguchi’s work might not necessarily be dance, but it is equally difficult to place within the boundaries of live art or theatre. A regular collaborator, established theatre designer and a winner of an Evening Standard Theatre Award for his work with Cardboard Citizens (Mincemeat, 2009), Iriguchi seems at ease in his in-between position, declaring that “the interdisciplinary is where I’m more comfortable, as everybody is trespassing on the boundaries between genres”. And he acknowledges that his work as a designer, whilst separate, references and informs his practice as an artist: “When I was just designing, it used to be everything for me, and I think I really wanted to say a lot through design. But now I think I am a better collaborator, because my performance pieces allow me to be fully responsible for everything. And I think that allows me as a designer to be more collaborative, to share the space with those I’m working with. There’s hopefully a good dialogue between the two.”

Iriguchi will present three pieces at The Place, Projector/Conjector, One Man Show and GRAFT. Of the three, Projector/Conjector is the oldest and has been extensively toured throughout the UK and Europe; “it’s a kind of love story between two creatures”, explains Iriguchi. “I’m wearing a hat with a TV attached, and [co-performer] Selina Papoutseli is wearing a hat with a projector attached. They are theatre creatures, and she wants to perform Star Wars whilst I want to do Swan Lake, and we merge the two together in a slightly surrealist way. It’s about theatre, and media that conveys drama. And about what it is to tell a story today.”

The second piece in the triple bill, One Man Show, stages the different spectatorial experiences of a large, tiered theatre or opera house, with the live Iriguchi surrounded by projected versions of himself from every angle. This piece was made for The Place Prize, although it has a similarly tenuous relationship to conventional dance. “What I’m interested in is how the different viewpoints, the different viewing experience, would lead the drama into different directions. At some point each viewpoint, each fictional spectator, creates a different relationship with me on stage. I, the live performer in the middle, try to negotiate with these performers who are trying to go somewhere else other than what we’re meant to be doing, which is a Hamlet soliloquy with a silly dramatic movement to it.”

Iriguchi connects the use of canonical theatre texts with a commitment to accessibility:  “When I started my piece I wanted something that would resonate with everybody. I thought it was really interesting that we can start from something or somewhere everybody can share and then hopefully go somewhere else. And Swan Lake or Hamlet is something probably anybody would know. And it’s also a nice challenge that what you’re thinking about has been used by so many people!”.

The third piece, GRAFT, is still in development at the time of our conversation, but is in part a response to The Place and Iriguchi’s work in the building as part of Choreodrome, the venue’s biennial research and development project. “It started from something quite personal. Whenever I come to The Place, and when I was given the space, I felt slightly intimidated that there were so many students and dance artists here who are in shape! Everybody moves so beautifully, whereas I can’t even dance in a disco! So I felt a little bit humiliated, and that made me really self-conscious of my body parts that are unable to do things that the other people in the building are doing. So I thought what if I created a landscape of those body parts that I’m at least temporarily unhappy with?”. GRAFT, whilst still being developed, will maintain Iriguchi’s idiosyncratic aesthetic; that particular combination of projected and live performers, 2D and 3D images and the readily accessible technology of projectors and televisions.

Iriguchi’s work is technologically complicated but maintains an air of the DIY, with its trailing cables, precarious visual headwear and cartoon-like projection. This, he says, began “when I had no money and DIY was a must rather than a choice. But also I fear that the technology could bring us too far. Like when I see sci-fi films (which I used to like a lot). These days nothing really surprises me because the computer graphics are so perfect. If somebody’s head is chopped off perfectly that doesn’t surprise me, not in the sense of asking how the filmmakers did it. You know that the computer can do anything. And in my work I wanted to show the limit of what I can do to the audience, so that if there is a surprise, surprise is within that limited context. In a way infinite possibility doesn’t attract me so much and I think limited capability or basic technology shows the bodies that are struggling, which I think is fun and more tangible.”

For Iriguchi, his Place triple bill is still “a fantastic surprise to me, that they were happy to introduce my pieces in a dance context. I still make theatre pieces, with speech and spoken word sections. And so I think it’s interesting that I did three pieces that are relevant in a choreographic context. Deep down I don’t mind whatever genre the platform my work is presented as part of because the good pieces that I see have got all those elements and it’s very bodily anyway. That’s what live performance is about anyway, after all.”

Projector/Conjector, One Man Show and GRAFT are presented in a triple bill on 28th May at The Place. On-stage mid-show talk will see Nicola Conibere (Artist and Senior Lecturer in Dance at Coventry University) and Brian Lobel (Artist and Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts at Chichester University) discuss the surreal aspect of Mamoru’s work.

Photo by Jenny Lewis.

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