Interpreting Denise Uyehara

My visit to Pitzer College last Wednesday was the first time I believe I’ve been exposed to performance art.  I feel like if I’ve ever seen it in the past, I didn’t know what it was but last Wednesday’s experience was the first one of its kind.

I would say that my overall experience was very intriguing, because as one performance came after another, I kept wondering how Denise Uyehara even conceptualized her message with her particular type of media. For example, I didn’t quite understand how the dancing was conceived in the piece where Denise was wearing all white and the projector screen had clay objects that would envelope her. In any piece that involved body movements or an interpretative dance, I would wonder how it was choreographed.

One feature of her performances that I liked was how video clips would be projected onto a person’s body or a white canvas. That was something I hadn’t seen before, and I feel that revealing glimpses draws a viewer in more so than showing an entire picture; it made me more curious and thoughtful of what context or scene that one single glimpse was part of.

My favorite piece was Denise Uyehara’s only other live performance, which was when she spoke about the mother with Alzheimer’s and the daughter who left home. I favor that one the most because of those moments where Denise Uyehara would burst into “Dancing Queen” on stage, and I watched with bated breath, wondering how I was supposed to react to a woman who was reenacting her own dance party in a dead silent lecture room. Moments like that made me think even more about where Denise Uyehara was coming from, and why she chose to express certain things in her piece in those ways and not in other ways. On a last bit, the part where she started drawing across her arms witha blue marker was slightly eery but appreciable nonetheless.

One last thing I’d like to add about seeing Denise Uyehara for the first time was that I was very struck by the way she spoke to the audience. It was really soothing, the rhythm of her voice; and the way she presented her lecture felt like a mix between hearing someone reading to you a story and a presentation. After noticing how captivating listening to her was, I wanted to be able to pick up that skill.


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