Backstage Inspiration

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All photos taken by Mari Nakano. All rights reserved.

Inspiration weaves itself in and out of the self. I believe some inspiration emerges from the innate self, but also gets absorbed and then translated from our surrounding interactions with objects and beings. As a designer and maker, I believe it is imperative that I remain in a consistent state of observation and absorption. I also believe that discovery and realizations of our deeper interests comes from varying where one seeks that inspiration. 

I had the great opportunity to spend the other day photographing and hanging out with some inspiring performing artists: On-Ensemble, a contemporary taiko quartet, taiko player Kenny Endo, flautist Kaoru Watanabe, violinist Ysanne Spevack and vibraphone player Brad Dutz. I spent a lot of time not only watching their rehearsals and the main performance at the Cerritos Performing Arts Centre, but also spent a lot of backstage and down time chatting with them about their views on performance, personal interaction and design. Could they be my thesis advisors for the year? Just kidding. Well… .

All of these performers are not just good at their art and their music, but they are in tune with the people to whom they present their work, their art, their craft. They have the capability to give all of themselves, but understand that there is a space between them and the audience that they cannot control, that is left to be interpreted by the individual. I learned a lot from my conversations with these artists and agree that my work is not something I want to fully “control” either. I believe in serendipity, in emergence, in self-interpretation. I believe that meaningfulness is created because that particular individual chooses to interpret and decide a song for themselves. And if not a song, then a story, an interaction, a moment however long or short. 

I also realized that these people were storytellers who had the capability of bringing a person into another world. I am not the type to be taken aback by performances, – and I’m not saying this to flatter anyone or promote my friends – but I was taken away by their performance. Many of the pieces were often premised with a backstory (i.e. a song dedicated to the birth of a new son, a piece in dedication to a place in which they grew up, rhythms about traditional foods…), and the delivery and curation of all of this really allowed for me to connect with the musicians on different levels. At times, I felt nostalgic, sentimental, romanced, entranced and excited.  I really did! Now, the question is, how can I evoke similar experiences through whatever I create? What am I learning about storytelling from these performers and how has the arena of music and performance assisted in my understanding of my own work?

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