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Life and Death, Dancing at MoMA

Date: Jan 15, 2013


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If you're visiting the MoMA this week, then you'll undoubtedly encounter a living installation on wheels, parked in the museum's lobby. Inside the open doors of a worn caravan, dancers Eiko and Koma move through a world of color, texture, and decay for all eight hours of museum admission.

The Caravan Project is part of MoMA's exhibition Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde,  which is presented through late February. A collection of work from Japanese artists, selected by curator Doryun Chong, the exhibit represents an era of visual art that greatly shifted Japanese culture.

Eiko and Koma, who both grew up in Tokyo at the time, are the product of many of those artists' work.

"It was our parents' generation making art," Eiko says. "As a teenager you are very influenced by those people."

In 1999, the duo was inspired to make a "moving museum" that could easily go with them wherever they travelled. "It is our own space, and we can do more than we do in a theater" Eiko says.

The project evokes images of garbage and decay while also suggesting the beginning of life. "There is a relationship of the textures. Our skin, our costume is really textured. The caravan is hung in materials and things are seeping out of it," Eiko says. "Sometimes my leg is out, sometimes my shoulder is out. And it starts to look like a hearse. But also it can be seen as a nest for little birds. You know how birds make a nest with many materials? I like the idea of looking like a baby bird but also like a very tired body."

Museumgoers can engage with the project for as long or as brief a time as they'd like. "In a performance people want beginning, middle, end," Eiko says. "I have no idea how long I will have their attention. The same moment that is the beginning for someone is the ending for someone else."

Regardless, you'll see them. "We joke about how they can't miss us," Eiko says. "They may not come to see us, but they are confronted by us and they have to leave near us. We have no crowd control."

Eiko adds that the The Caravan Project creates a stark contrast to the rest of the work in the museum. "It's a little mischievous," she says. "It's not too expensive, but it's parked in front of the high art. Nothing looks new, that you could go to a store and buy. Things are very weathered. We look very old."

She adds, "It's a special work because it's really just a duration. We are seeing it as an experience." At the end of the day on January 21st, they'll close the doors and drive it away.
Emeri Fetzer is the Online Managing Editor of, a website about professional dance and dancers
Photo courtesy of Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center