Text excerpts by Toshiki Okada. Visual by Teppei KaneujiOverview digital gestures
Toshiki Okada’s piece Eraser Mountainhas proved prophetic in capturing the zeitgeist. The director and author, a foremost protagonist of Japanese contemporary theatre, is renowned for his ability to sense social upheavals. For Festwochen 2020 reframed, he has provided us with two text excerpts from his piece: about the nature of time and the absent audience. Teppei Kaneuji, a visual artist and the set designer for the production, has authorised the pre-release of a visual he has created for a new book publication entitled Eraser Stone. In it, he sketches out the time scales between past, present and future and the relationship between human beings and objects.
Fragments of the play by Toshiki Okada
LOSSS This might be a difficult topic, but it would make me happy if you could understand it. And what it is, is, it's about time. There was this thing called time. But you have no understanding of what kind of thing time was, right? Do you understand? You don't, do you? Of course you don't. In that case, let's put aside what kind of thing it was and just know that there was something called time and hold that in your mind for starters, that would be good. But if I could say one thing about time, it had the property of duration. But you don't understand what duration means, right? You don't understand. In that case, just the fact that there's a thing called time and it had the property of duration. Hold that in your mind for starters, that would be good. So anyway, human beings had this thing called time. I'm talking about humans. Human beings had this thing called time and for humans, this time was a problem. For humans, time was relentlessly a big problem. In fact, I could say that for humans, every single problem boiled down to time – it was that vast. For humans, time was a big big big problem. You don't understand this either, do you? You don't understand this. Of course you don't. In that case, just say that for humans, time was a big problem, just that much. Hold that in your mind for starters, that would be good. So then the question is, why was time such a big problem for humans? The reason was that humans belonged to time. It was not possible for humans to not belong to time. The most they could do was to change the texture of the time they belonged to into a different kind of thing. But even then, they still belonged to time. Humans could only exist on top of time. That's why for humans, all problems were fundamentally about time. And this might be the most difficult part of this to understand. If you could understand this point, you would basically come to a complete understanding of human beings. What do you think? Do you understand? You don't understand. Of course you don't. But it goes both ways. Humans, as humans, could not understand that time existed only for humans. They could not understand it at all. Since humans could not imagine a state of not belonging to time they could not understand what it would mean not to have time as a problem. The most they could do was to imagine an extremely long period of time. That was about all they could muster. But even then, time was still a problem for them. But this was simply the limitation of humans. Nothing could be done about it. So, the fact that there could be a state of being of not belonging to time was a concept that humans could not imagine. If you could understand that much, that would be good.
For the grass and trees where the slight breeze blew, there was no audience.
For the slowly shape-shifting clouds that are moving at a barely perceptible speed seen only if you train your eyes on them, still, for a long time, there was no audience.
For the reflections of those clouds and sky in the wet rice fields during the season before planting, there was no audience.
For the distant thunder, there were no listeners.
For some song that was accidentally set to play on a music app in a smartphone that came blaring through the headphones, there were no listeners.
Early in the morning, crows tore away at the garbage bags full of kitchen waste for pick-up. They pecked away all they wanted and beat their wings to fly away, and at that moment their wings made a noise like a heavy umbrella opening forcefully.
Then they perched atop a power line.
There was no audience.
For a bath towel stuck in the branches of a pine tree, there was no audience.
For the changes to the topography, there was no audience.
For the wallpaper in the small room, there was no audience.
The faraway light blinking across the ocean sometimes, accidentally, lit the figure of a ghost standing on the dark sea surface.
But there was no audience.
There was no audience for the cave.
As soon as a brilliant phrase was typed out, the computer froze, and the screen blacked out.
Translated by Aya Ogawa