Daisuke Kosugi’s audiovisual work »A False Weight« is a dance choreography that draws on technics of Butoh to adapt a biographical moment shaped by physical decline.
Flawless pieces of fruit are presented, perfect in shape and color. Their changing arrangement and variations are an indication of different moments in time, and the way they are placed – on a board between the dining table and the kitchen – marks a spatial barrier that becomes increasingly difficult to circumnavigate for the apartment’s resident in Daisuke Kosugi’s film A False Weight. Every time a change in the fruit arrangement occurs, the kitchen counter becomes even more of an obstacle for the protagonist and film director’s father, Masanori Kosugi. Masanori is the subject of the film that was presented as the central piece in two of Kosugi’s recent solo exhibitions; at Fotogalleriet in Oslo and at Jeu de Paume in Paris. Since retiring from his job as a construction engineer, a brain disease has inflicted the functionality of Masanori’s neuronal system, steadily degrading his ability to control his movement. Over a duration of roughly 40 minutes, the viewer observes how he is getting increasingly shaky and insecure, while navigating himself at an almost unnervingly slow pace between bed, armchair, kitchen and dining table.
However, Daisuke Kosugi is not observing the actual Masanori Kosugi in his film, but instead he shows us Toru Iwashita, a Butoh dancer who takes on the task of embodying the protagonist. During the production process, Iwashita worked with the Kosugi-family to understand the movements and daily routine and behavior of the disabled Masanori, in order to find an expression for the physical and mental condition. The Butoh dance is a means to find a different language for physical restriction, since linguistic description of »disability« will always be an externalization of the bodily malfunction; something imposed on the body from outside. The mimetic dance, on the other hand, acknowledges this restriction as a condition in its own right. And in the process of appropriating the movement, the hierarchy of the healthy body, as the norm from which the disabled body deviates, is turned on its head.
Butoh, a radical dance form that was established in post-war Japan, was partly influenced by psychoanalysis and surrealism, but stayed clear of specific definitions or characteristics. Instead it aspired to be a form that was sensible of the influence of social environments on individual bodies. This approach, the awareness of the surroundings of bodies that have an effect on posture and movement, also manifests itself in the film in the way the sterile and functional apartment displays society’s demand for effective bodies - the residential environment as a standardized place designed to fulfill basic human needs like rest, nutrition and entertainment, with the goal of preparing the body to perform labor. However, the slow movements of the dancer change the perception of the apartment, disrupting its functionality and revealing its failure to accommodate a body that doesn’t match the demands of physical capability. Thus, the architectural space becomes the antagonist within the Butoh choreography, which reconfigures body movement that doesn’t work according to norms and standards anymore.
At the end of each of the daily tasks that structure the film, the protagonist prepares to leave the confines of the house – the first two times by himself, the third time only with the help of his wife. Then, the viewer is introduced to Masanori’s leisure-time activity: retired from his job as a construction engineer, Kosugi senior has dedicated his life to bodybuilding. The athletic practice of structuring the body according to a very specific set of aesthetical ideals coincides with the decay of his musculature. It’s a tragic concurrence: the desire for the hyper-affirmation of fitness culture; the dismissal into the void of leisure time at the end of a labor life in duty of a capitalist society; and the onset of physical malfunction. What these three occupational conditions – disability, excessive physical performance and the surplus of time in the twilight years of life – share, is that they appear as society’s blind spots, something that is usually being overlooked, sidelined or stigmatized, even though they correspond directly to political, economic or social belief systems.
Daisuke Kosugi offers no alternative, nor does he try to provide a catharsis for the disabled that would transgress the physical limitations through the poetics of dance (an approach that might seem obvious, given the almost naïve fascination of Butoh’s father figures, such as Tatsumi Hijikata, with »crippled« movement that could have easily led to a false idealization or stylizing of bodily restrictions). »A False Weight« is rather a filmic and physical acknowledgement of these conditions. Balancing biographical specificity and abstraction, it challenges what society considers a desirable norm in the way bodies are meant to perform, reproduce and attract.