As an origami practitioner, I asked myself:
What is the process of folding? And who is the folder, anyway?
I attempted to answer these question through my first-ever origami performance piece that debuted at the Make It Share It Open Stage.
(Photos: Beverly Yuan)
Where did this piece come from?
"Is origami an art or a craft? Is there a distinction?" These questions have echoed around the origami community, hinting at the community's growing desire for origami to be recognized as a form of high art. The fine art establishment is no happy paradise, but if anyone who wants origami to gain such status, I thought to myself, they'd need to have their own ideas about what art is, and try to create origami that is also art to them. Many origami practitioners like Paul Jackson or Victor Couerjoly are experimenting with different methods and interpretations of origami, but I wondered what I could do to "inject" some "art" into origami. What if I combined origami with an established art form... like dance?
The fusion of origami and dance haunted my imagination, inducing me to flesh that idea out despite myself. I decided to tackle the process of art: practitioners of origami, or art more generally, always say that the process matters as much, if not more than the product. I wanted to test that. What is the folding process like? Where is the human element in origami, if humanity is central to art? Who is the origami artist, anyway?
When the organizer of the Open Stage invited me to create a piece, and I accepted the chance to make this idea a reality.
The process of exploring the process
This is a devised piece, which means that I spent hours playing with huge sheets of paper, folding with only a simple plan in mind (I would only fold a familiar model to help the audience focus on the process) and observing what interesting emotions or movements would come up in the process that I could use. The final sequence slowly crystallized over many sessions from this trial and error. Very early on the paper taught me that I had lost patience with origami, which is a rather alarming indictment. Thankfully, I managed to find the fun in wrestling with the paper. That fun made everything come alive.
If the you think you saw slapstick comedy in the recording, that's thanks to my experience at the Bard Summer Theater Intensive! I reprised the slapstick from my group's 25-minute movement theater piece Space Ballet, which in turn drew inspiration from Herbert Fritsch's shows that we watched in Berlin, such as my favourite dadaist show der die mann. I'm very grateful for the broad exposure to ideas at the theater intensive, as well as its training on devised theater.
I'm going to try and expand what we can do with origami by stepping off into the fourth and fifth dimensions! Look out for more crazy experiments to come...