Other People, common ground
Edition #5 - The Metropolitan Edition
Tokyo / Buoy - 5 November - 27 November 2022
In the beginning of winter-arriving-in-Europe, Menzo and Mirte travelled to Japan, where autumn was still present with coloured leaves on the trees and mild temperatures (summer temperatures for Norwegian standard). For three weeks, Other People, common ground worked in Tokyo, of which for ten days Menzo and Mirte where just with the two of them, and for ten days with the invited Japanese performing artists Sachi Masuda and Tsuyoshi Kondo. This text is a result of an exercise in collective writing with all four people who participated in Edition #5.
Thanks to the tip of the Dutch Embassy, BUoY became the place for the residency of Edition #5. From the first moment, Kako Kishimoto, the head of BUoY, was very fast in answering and enthusiastically helping out to facilitate the realization of Edition #5. Our working place was a space that is an extension of a café, for which a plastic curtain was the only division. This meant that we shared the space with the café sound-wise when it was open. Singing practice could only take place during the closing hours of the café. Also making sound was not really appropriate when other people were around using the space.
BUoY is a place for performing arts in Tokyo, close to Kita-Senju station. It is a well designed, renovated former bowling hall on the first floor, as well as a former sento (public bath) in the basement. Many of the elements from previous usage are kept visible. It gives a raw, as well as beautifully designed feeling of the space. The floors are concrete, though upon arrival Mirte and Menzo were able to put puzzle foam mats on a part of the space to make a softer floor. There was also a movable white block that served as a wall, almost like a backstage, where we could redress in privacy when the café was open.
Language/ interpretation/ translation
This edition was the first edition of which language that needed interpretation was part of the work, as two people participating in this Edition can not speak Dutch/Flemish and the people who do, cannot speak Japanese. For the first ten days, the working language was Dutch/Flemish as Mirte and Menzo were only working with the two of them. From the moment the group for Edition #5 was complete, the working language was usually English, the language everybody shared. This levelled the playing field in a way, because it meant that nobody spoke in their native tongue during the work.
The issue of translation became most apparent during our moment of sharing our work with an audience, which we decided to do in both English and Japanese. This act of interpreting caused the sharing to take much longer than we had anticipated, but was definitely a necessity to be able to communicate with all people that attended. The translation also created a dynamic between the translator and the person translated. This left little room for the translator to give their own input apart from the translation. As well was the speaker being translated, adjusting the way of speaking to more clear and short sentences. This was not experienced as negative, but is something to be mindful of.
Translation came up as a practical tool in clarifying terms or intentions. Trying to answer the question: ‘How would you translate it in your language?’ often led to a discussion about a word or intention, about what something means and doesn’t mean. This led to a deeper and more communal understanding of the terms used in the work of the group. We only realized this later in the working period, so it is something to discuss earlier in the process of the edition next time.
Network of colleagues and places
Edition #5 was the first edition for which it was possible to invite more colleagues to join Other People, common ground, something the past 2,5 years of corona-related restrictions prevented before. It felt like the perfect timing to finally involve actual other people. The colleagues who joined the project were Tsuyoshi Kondo and Sachi Masuda. They both brought their own practices from theatre and dance and on top of that both speak Japanese and English. Both quickly became important additions to the group and valued and full-fledged colleagues within the project. The connection with new colleagues of Other People, common ground, raises the question how we deal or will develop the network of colleagues of Other People, common ground.
Other People, common ground wishes to explore ways to keep the network alive, taking into consideration that it will probably won’t be impossible to bring every colleague that has ever contributed to the project to every following edition physically. Nonetheless it is an active question as ways to keep the network connected by writing, meeting up digitally, offering some space for colleagues from previous editions to join in on upcoming editions, or helping them set-up spin off projects are being explored. These are of course only our first thoughts and they will become more clear and urgent as our network grows.
Within this exploration there is the question of the residue. The residue is whatever it is the project leaves behind at the place it took place, and with the people that took part, but also the other way around. The place and the people that gave shape to any edition, influence and help to form the project as a whole. Keeping the network connected is also a way of making sure the residue doesn’t fade. Being aware of the residues is also a way of keeping the network connected.
I was thinking about the project when I was walking on streets, watching views time to time. I guess this extra room/space in our daily life to reflect/notice/aware of is part of residues from the project. The question is how long I can keep the space in my head. So it is quite good you two meet twice a year to keep reminding yourself. A supplement or vitamin for the soul, I guess.
-Tsuyoshi Kondo, December 2022-
For this edition, a moment of sharing with around ten people was organized. The attendees were both people we knew and people unfamiliar to us. When organizing the event, it was chosen to see this event as a continuation of the work as a group, only now with more people. Because of this, the focus was mainly on proposing some of the exercises that had been done during the work in Edition #5. The exercises that were most appealing from being tried out with more people than the four colleagues of Edition #5.. Because of this, and the desire not to make the evening last too long, there was only very limited time for a discussion. This is something that might be changed next sharing, as the discussion seems to be an important part of the work, both for the colleagues of Edition #5 as well as the attendees of the sharing.
A question that came up was: ‘Who are we doing the sharing for?’ On the one hand, it was just a continuation of the work, on the other hand there was a feeling that of presenting something, a responsibility to entertain the audience. This feeling is probably quite normal considering the setting, but it is interesting to explore if it is really necessary, and if there are alternatives.
The question came up why sharing should be in the end of an edition, maybe it could be interesting to organize a moment of sharing earlier in the process? Maybe a sharing moment happens several times during an edition?
In addition to the sharing moment on the last day of Edition #5, Mirte also gave a talk about Other People, common ground, in the seminar of Ypam Exchange 2022 in Yokohama.
During this edition, Menzo and Mirte happened to run into many people who have connections to them directly, to friends, and friends' friends... by sheer serendipity. Once, Mirte found that 'Papa Noel,' the proprietor of a cafe in Minami-Senju area, is the father of a dancer who she knew, and another of us had friends in common. There were also many unexpected encounters with random people. Many of them were kind, eager to help out, and many of them just gave warm feelings. It is crazy to think about how Menzo and Mirte were able to feel connected, even though they a were in such a busy place with many people.
Already in Edition #2: The Noise Edition, somebody from the residency place Cas-Co, compared this project to a marriage. As the phase of getting to know each other is somehow over, and it more and more gets visible links to a relationship in the Menzo-Mirte relation, the reference to a marriage becomes more prominent. As in any relationship, irritations and patterns become more noticable, and that creates the need to actively work on improving it. The commitment of working together for 20 years, is a kind of contract that strongly resembles a marriage in itself. And even though Menzo en Mirte only see each other once a year, it still is important to remember that the relational work is a part of the work.
Relational work is at any time also part of the work as a performing artist, where often the premises is working in groups. Practising talking openly with the focus on relations is important, and surely part of the work. It is something that is rarely mentioned as such, but is something that should not be underestimated. Not its importance but also the practice it takes to become better at it.
Credits Edition #5
Colleagues: Menzo Kircz, Mirte Bogaert, Sachi Masuda & Tsuyoshi Kondo.
Residency: BUoY Tokyo
Many thanks to: Bas Valckx of the Embassy for helping us out in so many ways, Kako Kishimoto of BUoY for hosting us, Jan Derk Diekema for the tour through Yokohama, Luke Macaronas for being very welcoming and taking Menzo along, Antiona Lui for taking care of Yuri so Yoshi could come to work, the proprietor of Senju Tamuraya for keeping his hostel so clean, quite and hospitable, the many performers we got to see perform, the patient people of Tokyo for helping us around, the sento’s of Tokyo for taking away our aches and stress.
Made possible by: Arts Council Norway, The Embassy of The Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan, Performing Arts Hub Norway (PAHN)