“These are the memories of human beings,” Cambodia photographer Kim Hak says in Cross Transit, an engrossing collaboration with Japanese dancer and choreographer Akiko Kitamura and Amrita Performing Arts Center of Phnom Penh. There’s one night left — March 23 — to see the show at Japan Society. With the seventy-five-minute multimedia piece, Kitamura continues her exploration of the future of Asia, following To Belong, on which she worked with Indonesian artists on such topics as diversity and inclusion. Cross Transit is Kitamura and Hak’s attempt to recapture a past that has gone missing because of the violent reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979; in a way, the work is a dance about photography and architecture. In voiceover Cambodian narration that is translated by an English speaker, Hak explains that many families, including his own, had to either destroy or bury personal photos to protect themselves from the oppressive regime, hiding their identities to avoid being arrested, tortured, and killed.
While recovered family photos and new pictures taken by Hak of abandoned buildings are projected behind them on three stretched canvases, Kitamura, Ippei Shiba, Yuka Seike, Yuki Nishiyama, Llon Kawai, and Chy Ratana move about the otherwise dark stage like lost souls or ghosts, reaching out with their hands and arms, trying to make connections in awkward, aggressive ways. They dance in haunting silence, to Hak’s words, narration by Paul Dargan, electronic noise, a Cambodian pop song, percussive sounds evoking gunshots and the snap of a camera, original music by Hiroaki Yokoyama, and vocalizations by Yoshie Abe; Akihiko Kaneko designed the set and the projected films, with dramatic lighting by Yuji Sekiguchi and naturalistic costumes by Tomoko Inamura. The motion of the dancers is initially slow and individual but eventually moves more closely in unison, with several impressive lifts and carries and rolls along the floor. In one section the dancers call out words in English, Japanese, and Cambodian, including “Here,” “Home,” “Now,” and “What are you talking about?” (The non-English words are not translated.) The Cross Transit project, which began in 2014, continues with “vox soil,” a collaboration between Cambodian, Indonesian, Indian, and Japanese artists. Kitamura (Enact Frames of Pleasure, Ghostly Round) and Hak will participate in a Q&A following the March 23 performance at Japan Society.