Documentation in the performing arts is important. When a performance is over, it has disappeared from current time and space. The following text is my second hand description of what was set in motion by HAiKw/ the 24th of August, 2017 in 1857, an artist-run exhibition space occupying a former lumberyard in downtown Oslo. The description is based on my memories that remain from the crossover fashion show and dance performance.
After an afternoon Yoga class, I took the subway across Oslo from the Westside to the Eastside. As I was taken through the underground I imagined how the physical, mental, and spiritual practice hopefully had prepared me well to be audience at a performance of Butoh – “the dance of utter darkness”. I had never before seen the primitive yet playful kind of Japanese dance theatre, but I knew that I might had a quite irrational and even frightening experience ahead of me. From the depth of my thoughts it suddenly occurred to me that the sign on the subway platform said Grønland, which was my stop. Before I got the chance to make a move, the doors closed and it was unfortunately too late to get off. On my way from the next station back to Grønland, I hoped that latecomers would be admitted by the HAiKw/ hosts.
When I finally arrived at the venue it eased my mind to find other latecomers in the entrance area. I was utterly relieved when I recognized a familiar face in the crowd. «Come in!» HAiKw/ designer Ida Falch Øien smiled at me in front of a garment rack where collection pieces were displayed. «Congratulations on the big opening night.» I smiled back to her and tried to catch a glimpse of the pieces over her shoulder, but got distracted by a slender silhouette strutting towards me.
With a charming smile, dressed in a one-shouldered powder-yellow outfit and balancing on transparent peep toe heels, Inti Wang gracefully announced that he was my host for the evening. He stopped right in front of me, pulled the dark curly hair back with his fingers , took my hands and kissed me on both cheeks. We giggled and I took a step back to have a look at the collection piece he was dressed in. I definitely wanted one too. Then he pulled me towards a dark door opening in the far end. On our way into the performance space I congratulated the other HAiKw/ designer, Harald Lunde Helgesen. He was greeting his guests on their way inside with highly contagious excitement. «It is about to begin.» Inti Wang whispered in my ear as the darkness wrapped around us. I got a spot in the middle and sat down on the concrete floor, just in time before the performers entered the stage and took the room.
Renowned Butoh dance performer Daisuke Yoshimoto and Oslo Butoh-lab had their faces covered with traditional white makeup typical for the dance style. All dancers were dressed in pieces from the HAiKw/ ss 18 collection that little by little were taken off and rearranged during the performance. I was captivated from the moment that the dancers started performing their slow, intensely controlled micro-movements to the explosive parts when they were running around the space and interacting with the audience.
HAiKw/ Butoh performance-fashion show was delicately balanced with beautiful contemporary electronic music where ambient sounds met club beats. The soundscape is produced and was performed live by musician, dj and composer Bendik Baksaas. He definitely applied strong energy and a modern vibe to the experience.
The fabric textures and colors of the collection items were complementary effects of the movements that the dancers communicated. In particular the beautiful pieces of tulle. The delicate fabrics dramatically changed the appearances of the dancers when they pulled the tulle over their faces. At times they were like unfamiliar creatures to me. There were moments when they controlled their bodies so intensely that they seemed almost supernatural, but then again there were moments of the most intense authentic human appearance I have ever seen. Their faces were constantly transforming, and their bodies communicated nuanced and powerful languages of movement. In one sequence Yoshimoto threw his 76 year old body on the hard, cold concrete floor, got up again and threw himself back down in so many repetitions that I almost had to look away. His physique was just unbelievable.
A red thread was a central stage prop. It came off to me as a quite obvious symbol for clothing design, but it also had a much deeper effect on my experience of the performance. Yoshimoto was at one point placing the thread in the hand of a guy in the audience and leaving it with him. That moment I got a feeling of connectedness, that by this contact we were all included in the performance together. Regardless of the red thread being a tactical symbol of the collection or not, clothing design is however the element making this experience completely different from dance performances I have seen before. The HAiKw/ SS18 collection are material objects that are left in a static state and with same appearance as it obtained functioning as dance costumes during the performance. More precisely this means that the collection is different from regular costumes. HAiKw/ ss18 is a unique remaining indication of what took place on the dance stage, and it is important to acknowledge that the collection was in fact the very reason for the extraordinary dance performance to ever exist at all.
When it comes to the collection, HAiKw/ ss18 is a remix of fashion industry-jargon inviting to a blend of floral patterns, copyright resembling watermarks and swatches. With this collection the designers aim to make trend forecast language to a trend in itself by using found fashion reports and HAiKw/ press releases to foresighted printed patterns on the collection pieces, like pinstripes consisting of text.
Feeling a bit numb and deeply moved, my memories of the performance were in in the end rooted in the honest, intense, dark, delicate, surreal and androgynous. Lastly I want to share something a bit bizarre to think about. To me it is a quite interesting detail that this text that now has come to an end is nothing else than a fashion report about a clothing collection that is reflecting that exact thing: the phenomenon of trend forecasts and fashion reports.