Knowing that Yubiwa Hotel “explore what it means to be a modern Japanese woman” I approached CANDIES Girlish Hardcore wondering to what extent I, a modern American woman, would relate. Not unexpectedly, Yubiwa Hotel’s aesthetic is extremely feminine and very Japanese. By turns ridiculously cute, delicately harmonious, and over-the-top sexy, the performance was visually arresting from start to finish. The emotions communicated were as universal as the experience of childhood, and the surreal activities the performers engaged in together called to mind the behavior of girls everywhere.
The verbal parts of Girlish Hardcore were spoken in Japanese with English “subtitles” projected on a wall behind the performers. I had trouble watching the performance and reading the narration at the same time so I gave up on closely following the voiceover component of Girlish Hardcore. I suspect that the narrative may have been as bizarre and nonlinear as the performance itself and that, even if I understood Japanese and could hear and watch the show simultaneously, it still might not have made much sense in any traditional sort of way.
The performers seemed to be translating common female experiences into heavily stylized gestures. Doing an arty variation on basketball drills in virgin-white nightgowns, they reminded me of the thrill and horror that gym class can inspire at a certain age, slumber party games of Truth or Dare, and of the nervous conformity that grips girls just as they begin to make the transition into adulthood. As “girls” the performers play, bond, tussle and argue, switching costumes and identities with fluid ease. When they become “women” they cease to interact directly with one another. Instead they focus on staying in rhythm while each struggles in her own way through an absurdly complicated striptease. The difficulties each woman faced didn’t seem to have been scripted specifically, but were the natural outcome of a script that intentionally presented obstacles to keep the women from attaining the synchronous perfection that defines manufactured girl groups.
I watched, rapt, as one woman tried and failed to attach a sugar cone to her frog mask. She eventually threw down her shards of cone and joined the synchronized tap dancing of her successfully coned comrades in panda, rooster, pig, and rabbit masks, recovering with the grace of an Olympic ice skater after a botched triple axle. When it came time for all the women to unmask themselves and eat their “rhinoceros horns” she simply buried her face in her frog mask in a sensual pantomime of self-consumption.
Jessica Bromer