KABUKI: Baroque Fusion of the Arts, by Toshio Kawatake, translated by Frank and Jean Connell Hoff. I-House Press, 2006, 358 pp. with 78 illustrations, 1,905 yen (paper). This is the new enlarged and revised edition of an important book on the Kabuki, originally published by the University of Tokyo Press in 2001 and released in English translation by I-House Press in 2003.
Among the reasons for its excellence is that it is by one of the leading experts in the field. Toshio Kawatake, scion of a distinguished family long associated with the Japanese arts, is the author of some 80 books, most of them about theater and drama and he knows his field as do few others.
Consequently, he is able see connections in the history and present practice of the Kabuki, can join its apparently disparate techniques, and can place this drama in the context of world theater.
Kawatake hypothesizes "two great strands of world theater," the classical and the baroque. The first stems from Greek tragedy through the French classical theater into the neoclassicism of Henrik Ibsen. It is the style in which a dramatic text is dominant and is regarded as mainstream Western theater.
The baroque, on the other hand, stems from popular improvisational theater, the commedia dell'arte, some of the Elizabethans, all the way down to expressionism and Bertolt Brecht. It is here that the Kabuki joins world theater. Like the above (and in contrast to the classical Noh) it is what we would call fusion theater.
Kawatake uses "baroque" in its primary sense. He does not refer so much to the period we know as Baroque (most of the European 17th century) but rather to the origins of the word.
The Portuguese "barroco" means pebble or stone and, by extension, refers to rough or irregularly shaped pearls -- these to be contrasted with the perfectly formed, round "classical" pearl. Consequently "baroque" has been used to indicate something unorthodox even grotesque, ornately and excessively embellished, and in bad (popular) taste.
Classic theater insists that dramatic development be logical, true to life, salutary; that dramatic action be logical and realistic; that it preferably unfold in a single continuous time period (synchronous with real time) in the same place, with a single protagonist and a single plot line.
Baroque theater has opposite characteristics. It is full of frequent changes of time and place with numerous characters who undergo changes of heart and even of identity. There is no single protagonist, plots are multiple and convoluted, and a dramatic text is not a major part of the proceedings. One sees why Kawatake sees the Kabuki as baroque -- as a type of theater he finds "sensual, erotic, unrefined, garish."
In fact, he discovers in kabuki "the beauty of a dazzling vulgarity" (paraphrasing a 19th-century aesthetician's acknowledgment of its "artistically first-rate vulgar beauty") and can use these qualities as evidence of membership in baroque theater worldwide. It is "a mongrel, a multifaceted theater created by the fusion of three disparate elements -- dance, spoken drama and puppet plays."
His book, writes Kawatake, aims to investigate the facets of this "intractable" theatrical form and to provide a comparative perspective from which to view it. In this way he is able to define and to integrate the disparate-seeming elements of kabuki.
Stage construction, sets, costume, makeup, music, movement, kata (stylized acting patterns) -- all are shown in full working detail. "Romeo and Juliet" is compared with "Imoseyama"; the "negative beauty" of the Kabuki is investigated; and the art of the onnagata (female role) is precisely defined as the artist's ability "to express female beauty without negating his own male body."
Kabuki does indeed fit comfortably within the perimeters of the baroque, and one of the reasons for its present international popularity is precisely the quality of its fusions. A postmodern prerogative is the disregard of the classical, of any difference between high art and low art, the embracing of popular taste (Hello Kitty, Andy Warhol), and an enthusiasm for the revisionist and the iconoclastic. All of which the Kabuki has in abundance and all of which has been brought up to date in this new edition of this important book.
Among the useful enlargements is a complete listing of all kabuki translations currently published in English as well as a listing of the plays mentioned in this book that are available on DVD.
En el siguiente apartado analizaré la forma desde el punto de vista artístico a través de la obra La vida de la formas del filósofo francés Henri Focillon, y desde un enfoque científico con Endless Forms Most Beatiful. The New Science of Evo Devo por Sean B. Carroll.
El día de hoy, el diaro español El país, en su sección cultura ha publicado una entrevista con el artista Guillermo Pérez Villalta (Tarifa, 1948). Él opina: "Me considero un gran melómano, pero si me obligaran a escoger, diría que el pop es mi música. Y lo mismo diría de la psicodelia de los sesenta porque siempre ha estado presente en mi obra. Tiene para mí tal valor plástico que me atrevería a decir que mi obra es hija del barroco y de la psicodelia". El 1er link manda a la entrevista y el segundo a un catálogo de sus obras.