Median and Accumulated Layout review: Powerful statements about our relationships with each other and with technology

Belfast International Arts Festival: Hiroaki Umeda’s opening double bill showcased his belief in dance as the heart of a multisensory experience


The Mac, Belfast
Hiroaki Umeda doesn't just choreograph and dance in his creations; he is also the composer, lighting designer and scenographer. It is not frugality, or unwillingness to allow others to influence his artistic vision, but a belief that dance isn't just about physicality. The act of choreography must produce a multisensory experience, because we perceive the dancing body by sound and visuals just as much as by movement.

In Accumulated Layout, the first in a double bill that opened this year's Belfast International Arts Festival, his moving body is hypersynchronised with lights and sound. A small change of lighting is mirrored by a subtle movement of his hand, a barely audible hiss of white noise with a slow shift in weight. Growing from wiggling fingertips, the impulse slowly spreads to his whole body with movement that is soft edged yet lightning quick, and always satisfyingly unpredictable.

Umeda's monochrome palette might suggest paucity, but it is in fact rich: white light combines all the colours of the spectrum, just as white noise is many frequencies combined

In Median, Umeda’s body is enveloped within video projections on the entire floor and back wall. White vector lines morph into grids that then dissolve into more asymmetric shapes that suggest more organic forms. Within this overpowering frame the human form becomes more hidden, yet, as in Accumulated Layout, the absolute synchronicity suggests a single impulse. Umeda’s monochrome palette might suggest paucity, but it is in fact rich: white light is a combination of all the colours of the spectrum, just as white noise is created by many frequencies combined.

Umeda’s oeuvre, particularly Median, can be read as a dystopian disembodiment as technology takes over the body and the lived experience is swamped by the virtual. But it also clearly reflects his deeply held belief that all entities, living and nonliving, share an atomic congruity. At subatomic level there is little to separate the human from the computer, so the act of choreography can be applied to vector graphics as much as to a body. Although not overtly political, Umeda’s rejection of boundaries, in both the creative process and the artistic product, makes a powerful statement about human relationships as much as about our engagement with technology.


Ends at the Mac today; Belfast International Arts Festival continues until November 3rd