Clothing for the Apocalypse

  • HAiKw/ had teamed up with a crew of butoh dancers for their fashion show at this season’s Oslo Runway. The performance was very powerful, and it reminded us of the trouble of deciding what to wear, atom bombs, and Beyonce’s dress in Lemonade.

    HAiK with Butoh Encounters, photo: Jan Khür

    So these guys were possessed! Haunted by bad, bad, bad memories.

    I hadn’t really seen an extended piece of butoh before, just small clips and pictures in advertisements. Of course, the first thing I always think of whenever this Japanese dance style comes up is the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The dancers’ “haunted” movements look so pained. And then I realised my whole understanding was pretty western centric and uninformed. I realised that this dance type had as much to do with life and nature as it did about death. Something about the pleasantness of the clothing made everything feel less about being burned alive, I saw myself in them. I saw myself in those clothes!

    Their dragging movements and terrorised faces reminded me of social anxiety, like FOMO or the trouble of deciding what to wear. They were taking in all the shit in the world and coming across as haunted yes, but still dancing.

    Yea, I think those moves landed the show in the “realm of fashion”. It looked like the dancers knew that they should be wearing clothes, but it was as if their bodies had forgotten just how to do it. Likewise with their poses. At certain times they would mimic models on the catwalk and in photo sessions, but only to arrest themselves, putting up agonized grimaces, seconds later. Like, “there’s something I should be doing, something about this shoe… this dress. But what?!?”

    Yeah, the combination of the dancers, their choreography and interaction with the clothes, taking them on and off, showcasing them in a way

    It was funny, like comedy LOL funny. The whole performance took on a feeling of lightheartedness that happened just alongside thinking about death. Not like making light of the situation, but more in a circle of life/life is beautiful/laugh before you cry kind of way. Like this recent video of a man from Houston, Texas, catching a fish in his own flooded home as his wife cheers on and laughs.

    Houston man catches fish in home flooded by Hurricane Harvey, photo: youtube

    The ending, when everyone came together to “heal” the situation, didn’t quite do it for me though. Because I don’t trust that everything will to turn out good in the end. Things can always get worse, and often they do.

    Hello? HAiK with Butoh Encounters, photo: Victoria Duffee

    Yesyes, that’s very glum and true. But the performance also gave me a surreal and uncanny feeling, maybe because of how butoh has been absorbed into horror movies. Anyways, at a certain point I was looking across the room, and for a moment I was watching Bjarne Melgaard watching the dance. So I thought of his beautiful exhibition with little pink pigs in a pink room, before BAM! all of a sudden, a dancer just appeared behind him out of nowhere and I wanted to scream WATCH OUT BJARNE!

    Time to wake up! But surreal, did you notice that guy who kept smelling his shoes in the end?

    Or trying to use it as a telephone?

    Yea. Lines from poems popped up in my head, like this one from “Diving Into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich:

    We know what it is for,
    we who have used it.
    it is a piece of maritime floss
    some sundry equipment.

    The poem talks of how an object can transport your thoughts to some site of former glory, or tremendous pain. Like what the shoe and the smell seemed to do to the dancer. For anyone else, his shoe is just another shoe. I also thought of Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”:

    You do not do, you do not do
    Any more, black shoe
    In which I have lived like a foot

    and, you know, the constraints of clothes. In the poem, it is as if the shoe has forced this person to live in a certain way. The performance managed very forcefully to show how clothes can exercise power over us. Like, they shape us! And everyone is not entitled to choose what to wear, there’s no escape, even if those items are stained with traumatic experiences.

    Well, what did you think of the clothes?

    What stood out to me the MOST was their updated take on the velour track suit. I have been dying to see one that doesn’t actually look dumpy in reality, and they hit the nail on the head. Hello?

    Then the floral dress was beautiful. I can also see its black counterpart as a must-own for Art Ladies. I would wear them at any stage of my life to almost any occasion.

    I for sure liked the airy, mesh-dresses. You could be really fabulous in one of those, like Grace Jones or Björk for an evening. Or Rihanna. Or Astrid S.

    Omg YES. The older dancer really had his Lemonade-look going by the end of the night. HAiK with Butoh