February 10, 2023 | FEATURES | By Alexis Cornachio

My head spins to the sound of a thud on the glass entrance door. Few people turn their gaze to notice the woman in a long black cloak, with her hair tied back and her body square to the doorway. The impact of her heavy palm hitting the glass door makes an empty thudding sound.

The sudden spell of silence that usually falls over the audience when an artist begins their performance never happens. Instead, Eiko Otake continues her laborious entry through the glass doorway and many voices inside continue, full of pleasant conversation and laughter.

Otake looks in on the disjointed crowd of people that stood just inside that glass entryway closest to her. The crowd remains inside, however, and she lingers on the outside, looking in.

On Feb. 3, community members crowd the lobby of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in anticipation of opening night of Otake’s solo exhibit: I Invited Myself, vol. II. In this project, Otake brought something very innovative and unique to Colo. Springs. Through performance choreography with various media such as visuals and sound, Otake invoked her audience to think about the body in motion through time and place around the world.

Otake is a self-described “immigrant artist” who grew up in Japan. She went to study dance and performance in Europe, until later moving to New York in 1976 where she performed in a collaborative called Eiko & Koma with her partner for more than four decades. Since 2014, Otake has been evolving as a solo performer, collaborator, and educator within the community. Her identities and the roles she has taken on throughout her life inform her art today.

Last fall, Otake taught a Block 4 course called “The Nakedness of Being,” in which her students learn that they must make decisions as artists, as their own creators, and as human beings.

She advises her students that they are their own creators. Otake believes that, in the pursuit of becoming your own creator, you may have to abandon co-creating, although co-creating is an essential skill you must initially learn to create at all.

“We have to decide. That’s my responsibility. That’s what I teach to my students: ultimately, it has to be your decision…The fact is that you are responsible for your own learning,” Otake said.

Decisiveness has been a leading force in the evolution of Otake’s performance art. Going into her performances, Otake will create scores: pre-planned choreography that will be included at specific points in the performance. These scores provide structure to her performance while also leaving room for spontaneity.

On opening night, she even screamed at the crowd. Nobody told her to do it, but it was another example of her spontaneous innovation. In that instance, she felt the members of the audience weren’t seeing her as a performer, but rather a nuisance.

“I don’t enjoy being a nuisance, but I take it on,” she says. “And I can’t become a victim, ‘oh, poor artist she’s not being looked at,’ you know.”

So, she screams.

Later, she said about the experience, “I’m here, and you keep talking? But they have a human right to keep talking because they didn’t come to see me. So I was making a little bit of a confrontation, but not really. They’re human, I’m human too.”

“This is my scream. Whether you like it or not – too bad. This is my scream,” Otake says.  

Vicente Taijeron ’24 connected with many elements of Otake’s art. He appreciates the unique medium of the performance, “I feel like there’s a sense of mystery going on. We’re kind of being led to something slowly,” shared Blas Taijeron as he followed Otake, while she winds the audience through the gallery’s lobby and stairway—her stage.

He also resonates with her performance because of his identity of coming from a migrant background.

When Otake appeared to the audience, banging at the entrance door and looking in from the outside, Blas Taijeron felt the act was, “like a metaphor to kind of describe life… some of us have to like, pull that door open for opportunity.”

Elliot Triplett ’24 said, “It’s very visceral,” about the evoking expressionism and movement of the artist.

Otake motions with her hand to the crowd, to follow her as she wraps around the museum halls. “She’s taking us on a journey, so we have to follow her,” said Rosalinda Segovia, a Special Education graduate from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

With tears swelling in her eyes, Segovia admitted, “This is part of vulnerability. The part when she was tearing up the plastic – it was tempered…She was giving you a piece of it.”

Otake plans on creating more content for April and July of this year where she looks forward to integrating more of the Colorado Springs community.

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