Rope. Voice. Body. Percussion. These are the four elements of Harness, a work bringing together the music of John Cage and the Japanese rope-tying art of Shibari into one immersive performance art work, exploring the dynamics of tension and release; silence and sound; movement, stillness and duration.
John Cage’s Ryoanji is an auditory sketch of the stone and sand in the rock garden of Kyoto’s Ryōan-ji temple. The sounds appear like imprints on silence, like brushstrokes on a blank page, or a body in an empty space. This sensory materiality of sound is the sonic garden in which the shibari practice unfolds, playing out its own dynamics of stillness and movement, of power and trust, of symmetry and suspension.
Cage described sound as events occurring in a world which is occupied by silence. The point is not of the order or structure of the sounds, but of their dynamic activity:
I love the activity of sound. What it does, is it gets louder and quieter, it gets higher and lower, and it gets longer and shorter.
– John Cage
In the same way a shibari suspension is a practice consisting purely of variations in dynamics, some subtle, some sharp, some extremely slow. The tie begins simply, binding hands and chest, and slowly evolves over the course of the 40 minutes into a full suspension, finally unwinding to end where it began, in stillness and silence.
Harness raises all sorts of questions, about trust and spectatorship, about consent and power, about beauty and desire. But most of all, it invites the audience to come along for the ride, to travel through the duration of the performance, to permit and explore the inevitable flux of responses; to dive into a deeply dynamic experience of slow, patient transformation.