Growing New Life

Kasai Akira’s butoh

Authored by: Megan V. Nicely

The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138691094
eBook ISBN: 9781315536132
Adobe ISBN:


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Pollen moves the past into the future. Its fine powder is the seed of reproduction, generating new life. Transmitted by the wind, insects, or other animals, its multiple pathways are unpredictable, guided by desire, perception, and chance. Interspecies interactions and random acts of nature are openings to the other that also result in pollen’s movement. For instance, insects attracted to the bright colors and scents of flowers temporarily assemble with them in an exchange whereby obtaining nectar’s nutrients also results in pollen dispersal. Wind and weather dislodge, carry, and relocate these small grains as well. Thus a series of temporary relations chart an open map of possibility for new life to grow. Deleuze and Guattari call these openings to the other becomings (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). In their example of the orchid and the wasp, neither is a fixed identity, nor in a hierarchical position. Instead, the encounter is both the becoming-orchid of the wasp and the becoming-wasp of the orchid. Connecting to what is outside involves certain risks to an organism’s known stability, and as destabilizing processes are challenging for humans. Even in practices like butoh that are openings to the more-than-human, its histories and discourses are more often marked by recognizable stage events and artistic figures than by experimental processes. Random trajectories and unexplained variations are difficult to account for and can threaten the internal politics of certain narratives. However, by considering butoh’s seeds as pollen that dissipates and takes root in unexpected locations, alternate and nonhereditary modes of transmission of the kind Deleuze and Guattari propose can then be studied. By including anomalies within its narrative, butoh as a practice can continue to grow.

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