ST/LL by Shiro Takatani, Dumb Type, is a performative expression of silence and duality. It is about the in between space of beings, words and breaths sitting quietly. Taken from the word “still”, ST/LL explores the fluctuations between tranquility and motion. How quickly can we distinguish this minute by minute change, and can we ever see it coming before anything really happens?

Together with the musical composition of renowned Ryuichi Sakamoto, the performers of Dumb Type (Mayu Tsuruta, Yuko Hirai, Misako Yabuuchi and Olivier Balzarini) toy with time and space through props and bodies. Meditative and mesmerising, the performance stretches our sense of time to its limits and leaves you second guessing on your definitions of speed, pace and relativity.

Though the exploration of time itself is no longer a new endeavour, especially in the realm of performing arts, the way it was executed by Takatani and Dumb Type was intriguing – visually and cognitively. The play of elements stood out throughout the performance, and I daresay it is one of its most distinguishing aspects compared to other staged shows with similar intent.

Water

Seemingly a minor change to the stage floor, water was an addition that made all the difference. Its reflection of the stage lights painting the stage floor dynamic – in ripples and spirals while subjected to external forces of the props and cast. Subtle splashes echoed through the performance space while it gradually caused perfectly ironed costumes to cling and wrap themselves around actors’ bodies – affecting the shadows and silhouette as the show went on.

The water adds a visual consequence to actions taken in the space itself, and a certain resistance to typically effortless movements such as walking or a simple leap in the air. The movements linger in the space in the form of rippling water, almost like a ghost of previous moments that occured before.

Fire

Juxtaposing the water’s constant presence, matches were lit and extinguished during a monologue. Smoke temporarily obstructs clarity while the flame reveals its surrounding surface with its warm glow. The short-lived nature of this particular element brings the perception of time back to the present, to impermanence and the sense of beauty that comes with its fleeting nature.

Light & Shadow 

Movements performed live seem to be projected onto a huge screen. However, the shadows seemed to take lives of their own as they become more independent and less in sync with the performers dancing live. Similar movements but yet so different in rhythm. For a moment I thought of Peter Pan and a sort of childhood magic, surreality in this simple poetry on stage. Suddenly the visible and invisible filled up the stage with just four warm bodies on stage, and maybe others conjured up by lack of light.

Technology 

Repetition, warping of perspectives and exposure of the elements on stage, the usage of technology in ST/LL is testament to why Takatani is hailed for his use of media arts in performance. From lights mimicking candle light flames to a camera that captures what an audience’s eye cannot, the performance becomes layered with additional symbolism through this artistic vision.

Though one may argue that ST/LL is deemed brilliant through mere novelty, there is no doubt that the show worked on the intersection of technological and technical brilliance to perform a show of intention and visual beauty.

This production of ST/LL was staged in Singapore as part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts. The festival is running from 16th May to 2nd June 2019. 

Photography credit: Yoshikazu Inoue