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  • Date
    25 SEPTEMBER 2023
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    Exploring the Hybrid Landscape of Dance and Technology: An Interview with Kou Yamamoto

    Kou Yamamoto (@nouses_kou) is a Kyoto-based choreographer and technologist at the forefront of innovation in the contemporary dance scene.

    Treating technology and the body as intertwined mediums, he employs the latter’s plasticity to translate the energy rooted in the land of Kyoto into a form of moving art. Nature, data and the human figure all participate in the creation of this hybrid and creative landscape.

    He is also a finalist in the Japan Championships as part of a team named "nouses"

    Hello Kou, and welcome to RED EYE. Could you briefly introduce yourself to our audience?

    My name is Kou Yamamoto, known artistically as "nouseskou". I create works that explore the relationship between technology and the body using TouchDesigner as my tool of choice; I  place a great emphasis on approaching this relationship from the perspective of the body. When it comes to street dance and contemporary dance, I am a finalist in the Japan Championships as part of a team named "nouses".

    My artistic inspiration stems from Kyoto’s natural elements – my birthplace. The forests and the tranquility pervading the shrines deeply influence my creative process.

    I am involved in various aspects of artistic expression, including dance, music production, and video design. My works are significantly influenced by the concepts of Musique concrète and the "Mono-ha" art movement from Japan's 1970s.

    How and when did your interest in dance and choreography start? 

    I began dancing in Kyoto during high school after seeing breakdancing/B-boying at a dance event at a nightclub. Around the same time, I began practicing choreography.

    Choreography can be thought of as a technology of the body. By suspending its everyday patterns, reconfiguring its behavioral trajectory and altering its processes of sense production, choreography acts on the body as a sort of prosthesis. An ancestral and universal one actually: when did the connection between the two become apparent to you? 

    My choreographic process is based on improvisation, where new rules for my own body are established. I also apply numerous rules to digital software design and use it to process the visuals. I consider both these processes to be very similar. In a way, I may be imposing "limitations," but I believe that these limitations can enhance the richness of human expression. I do not perceive any negativity in this aspect.

    The sensations that go through my body make me aware of the fatigue that I am feeling. Other factors such as weather and emotions also affect me. And I cannot control every single condition perfectly but it is precisely between these margins that the body, which is an essential element in each process, can produce precious artistic expressions.

    I prioritize valuing the signals from my body above all else.

    In your work, is the relationship between dance and technology a symmetric one or is there a predominant element? How do you integrate them?

    As we quickly touched upon, I think of technology and the body as equal tools and mediums. However, technology, particularly visual media, also functions as a tool to see oneself from an objective standpoint. The distinction between subjective and objective perspectives undergoes a continuous process that culminates in a singular unification which is the artwork.

    Technology is an open-ended narrative. It can always be expanded or rewritten and its constant renovation is also a chance for unpredictability. Do you see a similarity with choreography in this regard? Does your practice still have the ability to surprise you?

    At my current stage, I add technological effects to the footage post-shooting, which means my work doesn't involve real-time digital processing. Yet, the other day, as I was filming and dancing by myself in the mountains, I found myself moving as if anticipating the post-effects. In a way, I was dancing with both my body and the image that technology produced inside my mind, leading to a refreshingly novel sensation.

    Body movement is based on subjective feelings, but this moment highlighted how technology can function as a means to perceive oneself more objectively. The most intriguing aspect was the chance to observe this small universe of my own from a more distant and impartial point of view.

    Scrolling through your IG profile, one can find, especially in your latest posts, some astonishing glitchy visuals accompanying your choreographed movements. Nature, data and body all participate in the creation of this hybrid landscape. Is new media the path contemporary dance should embark on? 

    My focus is the integration of the natural environment into my work. Employing my body’s plasticity to translate the energy rooted in the land of Kyoto into another medium makes me feel aligned and heightens the purity of my senses.

    I don't approach this hybrid process through logical contextualization. Instead, it's driven by curiosity and a desire to explore the world I want to see and manifest.

    Of course, I believe that in the context of contemporary dance, such expressions and research will likely continue to grow. However, and this is something I often discuss with my peers, in Japan contemporary dance to this date remains an “imported” concept. Thus, I'm still uncertain about the future evolution of this hybrid process.

    Interview by Davide Andreatta

    Image Courtesy Kou Yamamoto