Portland-based choreographer, dancer, and visual artist Takahiro Yamamoto’s new work Opacity of Performance premieres June 16 at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, marking a return to live art inside the museum’s galleries. Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this commissioned dance installation will take place over two consecutive weekends, June 16 to 19 and June 23 to 26, 2022.
A rotating cast will perform in the Laura and Roger Meier Family Gallery of European art from noon to 5 p.m. each day, and the performance on June 18 will be livestreamed on the Portland Art Museum’s YouTube channel. The performances are included with regular Museum admission, as well as during the Museum's Miller Family Free Day celebrating Juneteenth on June 19.
“The Portland Art Museum has a long history of hosting performances, and I look back to such touchstones as the Art on the Edge program curated by Kristy Edmunds in the early 1990s as providing an important foundation for many of my projects over the past several years,” says Sara Krajewski, the curator of the exhibition. “I’m honored to continue this direction with the thoughtful and compelling exhibition by Taka Yamamoto, the museum’s first-ever dance commission.”
Visitors will encounter three colorful curtains made from transparent, translucent, and opaque fabric that divide the European art gallery to form the areas of the performance. There, the cast will perform lively solos and group choreography. At regular intervals one performer will open a curtain to reveal the others, or close it to conceal them from the audience’s view; the curtain’s position then creates new conditions that the dancers must navigate. The performance is ongoing throughout the day and museum visitors are welcome to stay for as long or as little as they wish; general admission to the museum provides visitors with access to the performance.
Yamamoto situated Opacity of Performance specifically in a museum—an institution devoted to visual culture and art history—to spotlight the powerful activity of looking and the passive state of being seen, or objectified. At the core of this work is the relationship of performer to audience and what might happen—for both groups—when activity and attention vary over an extended duration: How long will the audience engage? How much does the presence, or lack, of an audience validate a dancer’s sense of self or purpose?
“Opacity of Performance was imagined as the dance installation you are about to see—or have just witnessed—and the performance applies poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant’s notion of ‘opacity’ to a medium that heavily relies on the immediacy of sensory experience and physical presence,” Yamamoto observes. “By exploring various levels of visibility for both the performers and the viewers, this piece proposes a confluence of imagination and perception in live performance in order to reflect the slippery and often relative ideas of validation, understanding and acceptance.”