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Eiko Otake

Eiko Otake, A Body in Fukushima, Trip 4, August 5, 2017, Tomioka Fishing Harbor, No. 0215. Photo by Wm Johnston

A Body in Places: Artist Talk by Eiko Otake

Born and raised in Japan and a resident of New York since 1976, Eiko Otake is a movement–based, interdisciplinary artist. After working for more than 40 years as Eiko & Koma, she now performs as a soloist and directs her own projects collaborating with a diverse range of artists.

After studying with Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata in Japan and Manja Chmiel in Germany, Eiko & Koma created 46 interdisciplinary performance works, two midcareer exhibitions and numerous media works. Their durational performance living installations was commissioned by the Whitney Museum, the Walker Art Center, and MoMA. Their Retrospective Project (2009 –2012) culminated in a comprehensive monograph, Time is Not Even, Space is Not Empty, published by the Walker Art Center. Eiko & Koma were the first collaborative  pair to share a MacArthur Fellowship (1996) and the first Asian choreographers to receive the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award (2004) and the Dance Magazine Award (2006).

Eiko’s solo project A Body in Places began with a 12-hour performance at the Philadelphia 30th Street Station. Since then, Eiko has performed variations of A Body in Places at over 70 sites. In addition, Eiko has performed alone in many locations of post-nuclear meltdown Fukushima for her multi-year work A Body in Fukushima, her collaboration with historian and photographer William Johnston. The project produced many exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances, as well as a publication of a photography book of the same title that includes artists’ essays. In 2016, Eiko was the subject of the 10th annual Danspace Platform, a  month-long curated program that brought her a special Bessies citation, an Art Matters grant, and the Anonymous Was a Woman Award. Co-presented by Performa 2017 and Met Live Arts, Eiko occupied each of the three Metropolitan Museum of Art sites while projecting a seven-hour video she created from A Body in Fukushima photographs.

In 2017, Eiko launched a multi-year Duet Project, a mutable and evolving series of experiments in collaboration that she directs and performs within. Negotiating differences  of race, age, culture, ethnicity, religion, discipline, and gender, the artists seek to maximize the potentials of their encounters.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and hosted by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts (CFA), Eiko created Virtual Studio where she shares her work and dialogues. Commissioned by Pioneer Works and Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Eiko premiered A Body in a Cemetery in September 2020. In August 2021, the American Dance Festival presented it in Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, NC. In March 2021, she opened Tokyo Real Underground Festival and premiered a performance work, A Body with Fukushima, the result of her continued collaboration with David Harrington (Kronos Quartet) and Johnston. Eiko also premiered two monologue pieces: They did not hesitate for a Hiroshima/Nagasaki memorial at Nuclear Energy Sculpture Plaza, commissioned by Curatorial Research Fellows of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Slow Turn for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 co-commissioned by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and NYU Skirball. 

Eiko regularly teaches at Wesleyan University, NYU, and Colorado College. She received an honorary PhD degree from Colorado College in 2020.

A Body in Places: Artist Talk by Eiko Otake is hosted by MDT in collaboration with The Royal Institute of Art Mindepartementet’s post-doc fellow Camila Marambio and The SeedBox: A Mistra-Formas Environmental Humanities Collaboratory. Funding support was provided by The Swedish Arts Grants Committee International Programme for Dance. Special thanks to Weld and The Nordic Art Association (NKF).