MUGEN is a duet based on the concept of ‘labour’.
A Japanese word ‘MUGEN’ can be translated to many meanings such as ‘fantasy’ or ‘infinity’. In this piece, I focus on one way of using this word; ‘MUGEN JIGOKU’ which is translated to ‘incessant hell’ and it is the eighth and the deepest stage of the hell with all kinds of restless agonies. I think our world is getting very close to being like that because people are having to work so much everyday but not getting enough rewards to compensate the amount of time we are sacrificing.
A Japanese poet Takuboku Ishikawa(1886-1912) wrote this poem in 1910;
I toil on and on,
work on and on in earnest,
yet my livelihood can never be easier
I look steadily at my hands.
It expresses his suffering from working so hard, yet his life not getting easier at all. What I liked about this poem is that his conclusion was to “look steadily at my hand”. There was nothing else he could do about it and he could only stare at his hands and feel helpless. It was written more than a century ago, but we all can under stand what he is trying to say even in the modern world. You work and work every day but it seems like your hands are just hanging there and can’t do anything to change your life.
We use a lot of improvisations in MUGEN, and all movements come from lines in our palms. As you can see in the piece, we keep our focus on hands and we used palm readings as a map to generate movements. I believe that my hands are there to create good things, not to just look at them and feel negative about myself. Takuboku found despair in his hands, but I find ‘infinite’ possibilities and ‘fantasies’ in mine.
When you are working so hard but no one pays attention to your strives, I‘m so sure that you’d want to stare at your hands and ask yourself;
‘Why am I doing this?’
What is the meaning of labour? That is the main question I’d like to propose by performing MUGEN.
5th October 2018, Kagurazaka Session House(Tokyo, Japan)
Maika Ueda, Ryu Suzuki （Kana Ikegaya&Ryu Suzuki in pictures on this page)