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Sensorial surprises in Hiroaki Umeda’s work 


Hiroaki Umeda’s work is all about haptic experience, or sensorial observations through touch. But Umeda’s aim is to widen the scope of the concept, which leads to some surprising performative installations, such as Haptic Installation which can be seen at SPRING in Autumn XXXL.

Hiroaki Umeda, born in Tokyo in 1977, studied photography at Tokyo’s Nihon University. However, he didn’t stay there for very long, as he tells Performing Arts Network Japan: “I ended up quitting it after about a year. It seemed to me that when I was photographing (as the photographer) it was necessary for me to step back from the surroundings and try to become objective, which wasn’t interesting for me. I was wondering if there wasn’t a way I could make it a more real-time form of expression (of more direct involvement), but those efforts didn’t lead to much. So, I began looking for another form of expression and that is when I discovered that there was this thing called dance and decided to give it a try.” When Umeda was about 20 years old, he started taking all kinds of dance classes. He started creating pieces that incorporated different disciplines by combining his various professional fields. His main focus became: giving people unfamiliar sensorial experiences. Now he works as a choreographer, dancer, composer, lighting designer, scenographer and visual artist. His subtle works that move spectators both visually and physically, have travelled the world and received universal praise.

As an artist and choreographer, Umeda doesn’t differentiate between human bodies and other objects or materials. This enables him to create choreographies based on auditive, visual or cognitive stimuli, or, as he puts it himself: ‘’I believe that technology is a means of accessing the world at different scales. And for me, choreography and dance are not exclusively for human bodies. What fascinates me in choreography is that it realizes and embodies the world that can only be created as a result of existence of movements. By collaborating with science and computer technology, I would like to bring a different definition of choreography.”

Haptic Installation, which was created in 2010, is a continuation of Umeda’s earlier work Haptic (2008). Which, in turn, was based on Umeda’s idea that colours can be considered a type of haptic stimuli. He researched this idea in Haptic by peopling the stage with extreme shadows. In Haptic Installation Umeda continues his line of thinking, delving into the possibility to observe light and colours with closed eyes.

When you close your eyes, normally speaking, the world turns pitch black. In Haptic Installation the audience is led into a small darkened space to ‘watch’ a video installation with closed eyes. It soon becomes clear that even with our eyes closed, we can still observe lines, colours and movement. A strange realisation, confusing to spectators, because what is observed hardly seems to gel with the experience. In a similar response to sneezing as a result of looking into a bright light, here, the body physically responds to the visual impulses. Meanwhile, visitors are listening to electronic sounds through their headphones. Allow yourself to be taken on this journey and experience light and darkness.

Catch the Haptic Installation during SPRING in Autumn XXXL from 7 – 10 November at Theater Kikker. For further information, click here.


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