Live Wood Sculpture 1984

Eiko Fan Takahira
Eiko Takahira: April 9 – 10, 1984

Draped in sculptures suggesting prehistoric, oversized insects, dancers moved easily, as if clothed in chain mail rather than wood.


The artist/dancer built sculptures of wood at once natural and man-made which she incorporated into her performance works as costume parts and sets. Draped in sculptures suggesting prehistoric, oversized insects, dancers moved easily, as if clothed in chain mail rather than wood.

At times, the dancers covered themselves with forms that were intricately carved and pieced. At other times, they wore a series of flat boards fastened together so that clanking punctuated the music of the handmade instruments that accompanied them.

Artist Statement

When I first started to use wood sculptures in my films and performances, the sculptures came out of a shell of stillness. Coming from Japan, my idea of wood sculpture related to the solid form of Buddhist sculpture. Although carved from a single piece of wood, the forms I made appeared to be not just a single piece of material. The forms had movement the viewer could imagine; I like that idea and spent more than fifteen years exploring that direction.

Very often artists get tied to the techniques they devoted many year to, without seeing that the material is locking them into a little shell. When I noticed that I am a thinker who happened to by applying my ideas to wood, I allowed myself to look for other materials through which I could explore freer ideas. I never found that material in the art supply store, instead I looked for materials in theaters and hardware stores.

That is how I began performances called Live Wood Sculpture. In these performances, I made all the visual materials such as costumes (wings, masks, spines, etc.), and percussion instruments as well as the story, choreography and musical direction. I had chances to work with many talented performers in dance, mime, acting and music. Compared to carving wood, in which the artist removes extra wood to expose what she sees inside that mass, Live Wood Sculpture gave me unlimited reasons to look for possibilities beyond my studio. Each experience leads me to invent newer ideas to further explore in future projects.

About the Artist

Eiko has a background in woodcarving and incorporates wood sculpture costumes with performance, in what she calls Live Wood Sculpture. For these performances, she has worked with dancers, actors, musicians, her own children and people with learning differences. In developing these performances, she has learned how to work with people, respecting everyone’s unique background and ability. Eiko encourages them to express their own ideas in their performances. She uses this approach when working with students with disabilities.  She creates the best situation for people to create and coaches them to come up with their own art. She does not tell them how to do it, but instead allows them to jump in and do their own art, utilizing their own ideas and their own personal style. She believes art tells each student’s personal story, even if they are unable to speak.