Damien Jalet: Creating new forms
Karen van Ulzen spoke to Belgian choreographer Damien Jalet on the eve of his visit to Australia for the Perth Festival.
DAMIEN Jalet loves Japan. As a freelance choreographer, he travels the world, but Japan in particular has stolen his heart. “I have been in Japan 17 times in 10 years,” he says over the phone from his home town of Belgium. He was there during the Fukushima disaster and has visited the abandoned area near the nuclear reactor and experienced the sense of an invisible and dangerous force. He has visited the islands and taken part in Shinto and Shugendo practices. “Japan is one of the last places in the modern world that still has animism,” he says, amid a wash of impressions about the country. “It is a place of extreme contrasts – on the one hand it has high consumerism and yet it is close to the rhythm of nature. You have a sense that nature there is still sacred.”
It was while he was in Japan in 2013, he tells me, that he encountered the work of the brilliant Japanese sculptor Kohei Nawa. “I saw an incredible installation in which he had created a whole landscape out of soap foam. It was a moving sculpture. I was really very impressed at how visitors would be wandering through it and somehow becoming part of the installation... also I really loved how as much as it was very inorganic. It somehow captured something very essential about nature. It had scientific rigour to it but at the same time was definitely creating a gate to another place.”
He arranged to meet Nawa and the pair decided to collaborate. Two years later they finally got together and began experimenting, at a residency at Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto. The result is Vessel, which will form one of the highlights of the Perth Festival in 2018. Jalet often collaborates with other artists and worked with a sculptor, Antony Gormley, on his popular and critically acclaimed Babel (also a collaboration with his former partner in life Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui). With Nawa he “really liked the way he reconsidered the body so it could have a different shape”...
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Pictured top: A scene from Vessel. Photo: Inque Yoshikazu