Cosmic Odyssey Nippon

Natura Morta
Lyric Theatre, Performaing Arts Complex
27 May - 4 June, 1988

Natura Morta is well described as a “cosmic odyssey” as there seems no other language that can accurately define it. Goro Namerikawa along with a team of sound and light technicians, musicians, opera singers, "bio-artists" and performers present an indescribable experience in what may be tentatively termed as "stage art". Natura Morta is an intensely sensual and unmistakably mystical encounter with Japan's sophisticated technological artistry and graceful, avant-garde dance theatre.

The experience is set outside normal time and space; it is science fiction exploring not outer space, but the inner space of the spiritual universe. Natura Morta flows in an abstract succession of startlingly beautiful audio-visual effects that are, at the same time, both natural and supernatural. In the holistic alliance of a wide variety of media - electronic and computer generated music, spectacular laser light effects, video graphics and projected images of cellular structures, strange shapes, forms and costumes and the expressive gestures of Buto dancing - the distinction between separate media and separate perceptions is blurred.

The signs of Natura Morta thus generate an obtuse meaning in the Barthian sense of the word. In the reflective layering of signs and sensations meaning is suspended between the image and its description. The audience enters into the experience and creates meaning moment by moment, via their own imagination.

Noted in the programme is a neat link between the meaning of Natura Morta and the theme of World Expo '88 - "leisure in the age of technology" - with the suggestion that there is an ethical and political "message" within Natura Morta about the use of technology in the modern world.

Expo is about, among other things, the use of technology in the modern world. It is about an experience of the mediascape of today's society, of technologised leisure in the real world. The image-pumping publicity for Expo is about selling an idea of society and technology, of fashion and leisure, using consumerist discourses of the body.

Natura Morta though, exists only in a material sense within this institutional context. It is removed from the ethos of Western postmodernism by its use of technology in the service of the sublime. Rather than externalizing the body's sense, the technically created images and effects are part of an expanded consciousness that can explore the landscape of the universe within ourselves. Technology is the means by which the body, nature, objects, and the universe are fused together as one. Creating visual metaphors of death and rebirth, technology delivers us into cosmic consciousness.

Although Natura Morta is an innovative new form of art, beyond the experience of traditional Japanese theatre, it retains a distinctive Japanese aesthetic sensibility. In the harmonious coexistence of the old and the new, it is an art form that continues to survive outside influences.