At OZ Arts Presents

Instant Standing Ovation: “Electric…Profound…Beautiful”

Experiencing contemporary art can sometimes feel like stepping foot into the unknown: one must be patient

and open your mind to the possibilities of what humans can create. Avant-garde Japanese artist Hiroaki Umeda brought to OZ Arts an unabashed contemporary presentation that feels like a fluid, sensorial experience mixed with fierce commotion that breaks the boundaries between body, light, and sound. Patience and open-mindedness are a virtue here. This is artistic director Mark Murphy’s first international guest to visit OZ Arts, and Umeda is truly an artist that encapsulates today’s contemporary art field.

Umeda began the evening with ‘split flow’. He is small, compact, and very still. A slow build, the dance begins with movements of various speeds. These eventually grow to something greater, while he is also expressing his velocity with light. How Umeda can fill the space and create an experience that pulls the viewer away from reality is striking. And the piece, ultimately, is exploring two distinct physical conditions – one that is dynamic and one that is static. With the intervention of body into static space, a different reality can be created with every stroke that the artist makes, every variation of light that paints the artist, and every sound that infiltrates the space.

Eventually, the listener can discern that the sounds are of different mass – whether it be water, oil, or air. And

that is just how sound can influence the space it enters, the body can also influence the space around it. The bursting yet tranquil light will make itself known and stop a scene in its tracks. Meanwhile, the glaring sounds will fight back and alter reality once more. And the dance of it all is just that: several mediums encountering, coexisting and influencing each other into totality. It’s satisfying knowing there’s no plan or motive to be had – but instead, various realities that pull the viewer in because of this entrancing dance.

These same workings are explored in the harmonious second piece, ‘Holistic Strata’, where “the common denominator of all movement is expressed in the distortion of hundreds of pixels.” The work is daring even by

contemporary standards. It’s as if Umeda has this entire dance coursing through his veins, and the utter cool factor of it all is what Nashville’s contemporary scene truly craves. Engulfed in swarms of pixels, the dancer’s

physicality is ultimately influenced by the varied world that the pixels create throughout the space. But the viewer perceives that the dancer’s body can just as easily manipulate the universe around him even as it is influencing the dancer.

This back-and-forth between chaos and synchrony can be interpreted in numerous ways. Ultimately, Umeda is creating a living organism that challenges the senses, and the result is chilling. Yes, the viewer can easily sit idly by and not give the pandemonium much thought, but what’s the fun in that? Just as Umeda creates and alters this mysterious world he created, he also challenges us: to experience sensations preceding the materialization of emotions. This is the oddness of it all, as well as the beauty.

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