Review of “NO ONE” a film by Yoshiko Sienkiewicz (AKA Yokko) by Jessica Jennings
This 20 minute film is a fine example of art that has its own meaning, but also leaves room for the viewer to create meaning.
I started to watch this film at home and within seconds my seven-year-old son made it clear the sounds were too scary – I was going to have to watch it when I was totally alone. That was for the best. This beautiful piece of art is really something to digest and think on in solitude. You don’t have to know anything about Butoh to see what’s happening here: this woman is suffering. It is easy to forget she is a dancer. It reminds me of Rodin’s sculptures, how he sculpted the grotesque. How he found beauty in the raw. It is quite emotional.
Then, if you did just a little research you’d learn Butoh developed as a dramatic dance-theatre in Japan after WWII. It is known as “dance of darkness,” often utilizing all-over white body paint, fluid and intensely slow movements paired with a high level of tension in the body and face. It is born out of the loss of identity that the Japanese people suffered after WWII. The dancer becomes raw emotional pain and suffering.
In “No One” I was first struck by the music, a mesh of piano chord – perhaps the inside of a piano? – and electronica. Dissonant. Harsh. Then I was struck by the narrow space Yokko would dance in. It could not have been a full meter wide. Wedged between two plaster walls, engulfed in heavy rope, Yokko emerges from the floor and very slowly rises. Her head is partially covered in the white cracked paint. Her torso is curved into a contraction and she never gets to release. It is as if her whole body is weeping. She is destroyed… and this is vague but universal. The film edits include overlaps of her in this movement-theory which gives a feeling of ‘the passage of time.’ Eventually she will scratch at the walls, and eventually the viewer gets a little breath of fresh air. About two-thirds of the way through a new overlay begins. This time we start to see her in a white ethereal garment frolicking in a pasture. The space is so immense it feels like freedom. I was wondering what it symbolized. Was she dying and gone to heaven? A memory of better days? Or her inner-animal taking a frolic? – she hopped like a rabbit several times. It didn’t really matter what it ‘might’ mean. To me, the juxtaposition of the suffering and the freedom was key. Her suffering was almost unbearable, but beautiful all the same.
After viewing I found her synopsis: “Our bodies are tamed in this society. We are forced to keep our spirits caged. When we unleash the deepest and most primal parts of our true selves, do we get lost in the destruction or do we find our way to breathe in this world we live in now as boundless no ones? ”
I can absolutely understand, conceptually, what she puts forth: we are tamed to fit social constructs; once our own wild is unleashed there is possible destruction or maybe an unbound freedom. I want so much, though, to understand her more. When she is dancing in the 1 meter space between walls is that the true spirit being caged? Or the destruction? It doesn’t matter that I ‘get’ her fully. I got so much from witnessing her beautiful film of a human being, being suffering, being destroyed; and I longed so much for her to have, and be, once again in the ethereal pasture.