Dancing to the rhythm of destruction


Listening to echoes of the dead through sound art and experimental dance, the audience at a poignant artistic event on March 10 will experience for themselves something of the infamous Tokyo Fire Bombing of World War II when — at 00:08 on March 10, 1945 — the first waves of U.S. bombers began dumping their loads of incendiaries and high explosives across eastern Tokyo in a two-hour attack that killed around 100,000 people.

As a resident of Sumida Ward, one of the districts targeted in the bombing, artist Kirara Kawachi (b. 1971) has been collaborating with Sumida-native and dancer Ikko Suzuki (b. 1972) since 2003 to create works on this theme. Through them, Suzuki says, he is looking for ways to answer the question: “How can we understand and feel what happened more than 60 years ago as our own actual incident?”

Their annual commemorative performance, first staged in 2005, came about after Kawachi and Suzuki visited Gallery ef in Asakusa, a mid-1800s warehouse adjacent to Sumida Ward that survived both the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the bombings that razed almost every other structure as far as the eye could see. Since 1997, the building has been used as a gallery space.

“Miraculously, the warehouse didn’t take a direct hit from that rain of bombs,” says Takeshi Yamaguchi, who works at the gallery.

Kawachi has interviewed 10 survivors — two people per year — of the fire-bombing and has edited their voices to create a soundscape for the dance. Every year, the artists and the gallery staff produce a new version: Kawachi edits the voices anew, on which Suzuki choreographs anew. This year, they focus more on listening to the victims.

“I wondered how we could hear the dead, but every survivor we interviewed says there was only a fine line between life and death at that moment. So listening to their words again and again, I feel like theirs are the voices of 100,000 victims,” says Kawachi.

“3.10 — Words from 100,000 People” takes place at Gallery ef in Asakusa on March 9 (7 p.m., 9 p.m.) and March 10 (4 p.m., 7 p.m.). Tickets are ¥3,000 and reservations are required. Contact Gallery ef on (03) 3841-0442, or visit www.gallery-ef.com