Minamata: A Requiem
HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity, Multi-media Theatre Jun 15 & 16
Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath (1971), a black-and-white photo showing a mother holding her deformed daughter in a traditional Japanese bathtub, was taken by American photojournalist William Eugene Smith, who documented the aftermath of Minamata’s mercury pollution over half a century ago. The photo, now the symbolic picture of the disaster, is only a point of departure for composer Kung Chi-shing’s latest multimedia work. “I don’t need to spell out Minamata,” he says. “I don’t need to spell out industrial pollution.”
Like Kung, participating artists of the collaborative work, such as Kingsley Ng, Valerie C Doran and Peter Suart, can’t be pinned down to one discipline. The fluid ensemble, nevertheless, is contained by a ritualistic requiem. “The reason I call it ‘requiem’ is because I think the work has to do with people who died,” explains Kung. “To a certain extent, it has to do with forgiveness – not so much with [the Christian] God but maybe to a higher being. In Western classical music tradition, requiem is very detached. There is sadness – but the sadness is so objective.” Yet, in this work, artists are responding personally and emotionally to the Minamata tragedy and other environmental disasters.
“If you think about where we are today, in terms of our relationship with the environment, all the different issues that the Minamata case brings up have to do with environmental pollution, industrial impacts and the idea of profit over principles. Who’s guilty? Who’s innocent? And who’s really the victim? We need to think about these questions, always,” says Doran, the production’s scenarist, dramaturge and lyricist.
“We don’t want to accuse [anyone],”adds visual artist Kingsley Ng. “It’s more important how, through the piece, [the audiences] mediate their relationship with their everyday life.”
Tickets: 2734 9009; www.urbtix.hk.