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Interview with the Director

Shun Hamanaka is the producer of “Kagerou”. He created this performance visiting Hisanohama area regularly. In this interview, he talks about the performance “Kagerou” that is based on interviews, video and acting performance. He also talks about the difficulty in working on the theme of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and his current activities in the affected Hisanohama area. Interviewer: Ryusei Asahina (Dramaturg) translated by Satoko Shimizu, Eri Tanabe, Tove Bjoerk.

“Kagerou” is a documentary performance. You showed it in December 2014 and also at the Fukushima Film and Media Festival in 2015. What brought you to work on the story of the Hisanohama area? The Great East Japan Earthquake happened on March 11, 2011. I was a student and I remember that day. When I was helping my friend’s art exhibit in Yokohama, I felt a strong earth shake. Later, I saw all these tsunami images in the media and heard about the Fukushima I nuclear power plant accident. I was shocked. As an architecture student, I started to search for something we could with my boss, professor and fellow students. Among the ideas, there was a project of building a scale model of damaged area. We made a scale model of Hisanohama, one of the areas which was just next to the temporal evacuation area due to the nuclear plant accident. My professor tweeted a photo of it. Some local people of Hisanohama who saw the tweet had interest in our project and we were invited to visit. This gave us a chance to work with them in the Hisanohama area of Iwaki city, Fukushima prefecture. The “Support team for Hisanohama Ohisa area” was established in the aim to solve the Hisanohama area issues and to contribute to the upcoming 30 years of urban planning of the area. I’m working as a member there. Personally, I have been making socially related artworks before the disaster too. So I had a strong feeling that there might be something I could express, or create from what I saw or heard there. At first I was especially concerned about the sea. Because of the radiated water leakage from the nuclear plant, fishermen were forced to stop working without knowing when they could restart. I made 15 minutes performance based on interviews with these fishermen. One day I met Ms. Kyoko Takagi. She lost her husband by the tsunami. Her husband, Yoshio Takagi, was a city council member and worked hard for the town. Everyone depended on him very much. Hearing her stories, I felt as if there is a harmony of voice of her, her husband and someone in the town in her story. It’s of course, not her way of talking that is special. She had a simple way of talking. But we could hear many different things from her story. That is why I decided to create this performance from her monologue.

You have made works with images and installation in the past. Why did you choose theater performance this time? Because the story needs “people being there”. The disaster has told us a lot of messages. When I was in Tokyo, I saw a lot of images on TV, internet, or through symposiums. But when I started to go to Hisanohama, what I discovered is the local people’s energy expressed in their looks, voices, or faces. On the other hand, there is a special atmosphere of the place that is difficult to explain. It is somewhere between vivacity and silence. I was wondering how I could handle all the different aspects and images of this town. I thought we need someone as a listener, or a watcher in or in front of these images. I wanted to shape the silence, with someone showing it. In other words, not create a moment “without voices”, but a moment with “someone being silent”. I hope that every single breathing, figure or gesture will help shaping Kyoko presence and people’s voice in Hisanohama including their inner voices.

What is the main topic of this play?

There are several topics, but the one I would like to emphasize here, is the topic of transitivity. It is about not that we should succeed or not but the possibility or impossibility of succeeding the story. The text of this performance is all derived from Kyoko's words. The actor is transmitting these words in real time, while hearing her voice in an earphone or from speaker. The actor is of course not Kyoko herself, neither is she playing her as a role. The actor is even not a part of the story. Before working on this play, I was myself distinguishing between the “insider” and “outsider”, looking at a distance at the two aspects of a story. For example, “I’m not a victims of the disaster” so I might be considered an “outsider”. I think there is a clear difference between being a victim, who has experienced the disaster first hand, and someone who hasn’t. This opinion has not changed. When I started my activities in the area, I felt a tension due to the distance between the “insiders” and “outsiders”. But working on this play, another feeling gradually arose. On stage there is an “insider” of the play. Off stage, the actor might not be a real “insider” of the disaster, but on stage, they become related in a very different way as an “insider”. I’m thinking that “transitivity” is something like this process. When you see a Shakespeare or Chekhov play that dates back more than 500 years, when we look a character that is far from the past, through an actual living actor, this is an aspect of dramatic art. I think in this play “Kagerou” too, concurs to this principle of dramatic art.

Were you thinking of transmitting this story to foreign audiences by showing this play in English?

Like I said, I was myself feeling the distance to Hisanohama and Fukushima and I was nervous about it. By showing this performance, I felt that I was sharing this feeling of distance with the audience. This performance is not primarily staged to tell about Hisanohama or Fukushima. It’s more about transmitting the spatial form of Hisanohama through images, voices, and the physical presence of the actors. In a performance, it’s possible to move Hisanohama, to bring anywhere we want. It’s up to the audience to feel something from it. By working on this performance, my own emotional distance to Fukushima become shorter, and my tensions melted down. I would like people both in Japan and abroad to feel this “Hisanohama-effect”. When I interviewed Kyoko, I thought I will bring her story far from here, transcend time and space. And I thought “How far?” Currently, I commute between Tokyo and Hisanohama. So, where beside Tokyo? Then I saw the beautiful wide ocean from Hisanohama, the Pacific Ocean. And I thought to go beyond it. In Japan, to go beyond the sea, means to go beyond the language barrier. This was the motivation to turn the play into English. Finally, what are your visions concerning your activities at Hisanohama? I think not only Hisanohama but many provinces communities are facing the difficulty of preserving their own culture due to the increasingly aging and decreasing population. As a “Support Team for Hisanohama Ohisa area” member, I would like to focus on this issue at Hisanohama continuously. On the other hand, I am personally interested in how Hisanohama people would be able to build new relationship with other culture. People in Fukushima including Hisanohama Ohisa are grateful about all support given toward them. They also have a desire to give something back. I think that is a strong positive energy in the present world. But for the moment, they have a lot of other priorities; revive from the disaster, their new life, family and the everyday living. In these circumstances it might be not appropriate to say to them, “Let’s think about the culture of other places”. So I would like to be their “substitute” to think about the culture of other places; working to make Hisanohama a place always ready to start something new in the field of culture. I have two projects I would like to realize in regards to this need. First, I would like to establish an art and research support network for Fukushima based in Hisanohama, which enables the participation of foreign artists too. Currently, there is a young research team focused on the rebuilding of Hisanohama area, which centers on making a film archive of the area, which has recorded how the area gradually changes little by little during the year 2015. This performance is in fact born from exactly such an endeavor. I would like to make this material available as a source for artists and scholars all over the world. In order to make any sense, it needs to be conducted over a long period of time for this project. I would like to continue what this performance has started and continually upgrade my material. Further, there is the very important network of mutual trust, which has been established between the members of the support team and the local people. This network gives an opportunity to establish real contact with the lives of people in the area, which can be tapped into also by people overseas, who are interested in Fukushima. Secondly, I would like to establish permanent contacts between the Komaba Agora Theater and local performers in order to establish an international theatrical group. I am a member of SEINENDAN theater company which based at Komaba Agora Theater in Tokyo. It is able to offer the Hisanohama area a variety of theatrical workshops. This performance was also created in Komaba Agora Theater’s rehearsing space. SEINENDAN theater company already has performed in the Fukushima, but these activities could be deepened and widened to encompass performances on an international scale. I would like to bring these opportunities to Hisanohama too. Each of these ideas are presently visions in my mind, however, I hope that this performance will contribute to the eventual realization of these long term visions.

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