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The costume as a transitional object

Nov 04. 2015
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By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to

Jitti Chompee curates a new dance festival that is inspired by Kafka
CHOREOGRAPHER JITTI CHOMPEE, whose contemporary dance works have been part of many festivals in Bangkok and around the region has a new passion – curating a festival on his own. And for his first, which pays tribute to the works of writer Franz Kafka, he’s also creating a new work and performing in another.
“The idea for this festival started from watching Isabelle Schad and Laurent Goldring’s ‘Der Bau’ [‘The Burrow’] at Tanzplattform in Hamburg last year,” says Jitti, who is artistic director of the 18 Monkeys Dance Theatre and has taken part in such events as La Fete, the International Dance Festival Bangkok and the Georgetown Festival in Penang.
“Unfolding Kafka” is a continuation of the Schad-Goldring collaboration, which began in 2008 and in which the costume was transitional. The press release describes it as, “at once a prosthesis of the missing last layer of the body, and simultaneously the first encompassing external space. The costume as organ makes possible an exploration of the body and the space around it can generate. as space as a stage and as a scenography.” 
“I loved the work so much that I went to talk to Isabelle after the performance. Later, I proposed to director of Goethe Institut Thailand Marla Stukenberg that she invite this work to Thailand. The piece is also based on Kafka’s works, which Goethe Institut is now promoting,” he explains.
“I went back to Berlin and confirmed this invitation to Isabelle. She then introduced me to Laurent. He’s also worked for Xavier Le Roy, who presented a work here in 2009. At that time, his exhibition was showing at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and so I went to Paris to take a look at it. He told me he’s working on a new piece called ‘Cesser d’etre’ [‘Stop Being’] and Marla liked the idea of having this work here as well. It has the same German production team. Originally it was a solo dance work by an Italian performer, but Laurent wanted to add another dancer. I auditioned for it and got the part. So, by that time, we had two works booked.
Jitti adds that he quickly came to realise Schad and Goldring were creating dance works without spectators being aware that these were dance works. 
“I think this is a new perspective that should be introduced to dance students and makers here,” he muses. “Those who are not dance fans can see them as visual art.”
The pair’s folding and unfolding of their bodies with different materials inspired Jitti to make a link to Kafka’s “Letter to His Father’ and from there to thoughts of origami. 
“I then thought of Yoko Seyama, the Japanese scenographer I used to work with. And so the Japan Foundation came on board for her visual arts exhibition and my site-specific contemporary dance performance ‘The Silence of Insects’ as part of this ‘Unfolding Kafka’ festival.”
For ‘Insects’, Jitti has once again picked the Rose Hotel on Surawong Road, where he worked on “The Pearl Fishers” as part of the last La Fete. It’s the roofed hallway inside the hotel that interests him this time.
“Being an old hotel, the roofed hallway there has unique charm and beauty. For this collaboration with Seyama, we’ve been inspired by ‘Letter to His Father’ and we’ve planned this work in such a way that it can be put in any larger abandoned space outdoors too. The process is quite time consuming so we’re starting at a small scale here,” he explains, adding that he is working with Pattarasuda Anuman Rajadhon, a collaborator on “The Pearl Fishers’” and Sun Dance Theatre’s Sun Tawalwongsri.
“There’s still plenty for us to experiment with but for now the cost of paper is quite high and we have to be concerned with the safety of the two performers.”
- The Unfolding Kafka Festival runs from next Thursday until December 3 at several venues in Bangkok.
- “The Silence of Insects” is at the Rose Hotel on Surawong Roadr from next Thursday until November 16 . Jitti’s new stage work of the same title will be staged at 7pm from November 14 to 16. 
- “Der Bau” is at Chulalongkorn University’s Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts on November 19 at 7.30pm. 
- “An Unfolding Process” is at Burapha University on November 21 at 7pm.
- “Stop Being” is at K-Bank Siam Pic-Ganesha Centre of Performing Arts on December 2 and 3. At the same venue on November 16 at 10am, is Schad’s workshop, “Embryology and Eastern Practices”. 
- A festival pass that covers admission to all events is Bt1,200 (Bt700 for students). Find out more at

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