The Eye of the Demon — a StoryFaces Performance

EyeOfTheDemon_Logo_slide

a story cycle of Japanese adventure tales

for adults and brave family audiences

samurai vs. demons, ’nuff said

Medieval Japanese legends mixed up with Kabuki theatre and Kuniyoshi prints, Emaki scrolls and Onmiyoji, on top of a childhood of Kurasawa films and Marvel comics.

 ——————  The Stories  ————–

It begins with The Legend of the Haunted Bridge… A soldier brags how he’s never seen anything that frightened him, so the Governor orders him to cross the bridge and find out what the demon that haunts it looks like, “because a man must live up to his words, no matter how foolish they are.” It was the perfect ghost story for a face painting storyteller — perfect because it described the face I’d need to paint to tell it, the face of the demon. It’s a tale I’ve told for many years, and it’s led me on into the thrilling world of samurai.

Raiko vs. the Goblin Earth Spider is a Samurai-Superhero Adventure™, featuring a young Watanabe No Tsuna, the samurai that took care of that demon at the bridge, fighting armies of demons, an evil Spider Woman and a giant spider named Tsuchi-gumo, all at the side of Minamoto no Yorimitsu (aka “Raiko”), the first of the legendary samurai.

Part 3: The Princess Ibaraki and the Tale of the Drunken Demon — The Drunken Demon is a classic tale I saw on an emaki storytelling scroll. It includes the same Raiko and Tsuna defeating the demon, and one of the Drunken Demon’s henchmen escapes to to haunt a bridge. To bring the tales back around together I borrowed a character from the movie Onmyoji, a princess who turns into a demon.

           The Eye of the Demon is a full length StoryFaces performance for adults, with a family friendly version as well. It features retellings of tales from a thousand years ago about Japanese demons (which are more like monsters or ghosts than like devils) and the samurai who fight them, along with personal stories of my discovery of these tales and the art they’ve inspired, and the way this connects to the superhero comics I grew up on.

Kuniyoshi_Raiko_tormented_by_the_earth_spider

By Kuniyoshi. My favorite Japanese printmaker depicted Raiko vs. the Spider several times

——————  The Sources  —————-

My original source for the haunted bridge tale was a story called “The Bridge” in the book Japanese Tales (Royal L. Tyler; Pantheon; 1987), and have since found related and extended versions of this type of tale online. I first came across Raiko vs. the Spider in Short and Shivery: 30 Chilling Tales (Rober San Souci, Doubleday, 1987). When I saw this tale show up again in a print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) in an exhibit at the Japan Society I began to understand the role medieval samurai legends have had in Japanese art and entertainment. For me, these tales are to be enjoyed as much through the illustrations, prints and other visual art they engender as through any text. The images drive the stories.

From a scroll by Kaiho Yuchiku (1654-1728) – The Drunken Demon surrounded by a bevy of ladies

onmyoji_jpgI first met  The Drunken Demon on an emaki at the exhibit Storytelling In Japanese Art at the Met, and again it was visual art driving me deeper into a story to tell. In addition to Raiko and Tsuna, the tale also included a wizard, Abe no Seimei, who I knew from a favorite movie of mine, Onmiyoji. In that movie, he has to solve the mysterious appearance of a namanari,  a living woman who turns into a demon — and I made a place for her in my tale as well.

Ibaraki Demon fleeing with her arm

Ibaraki Demon fleeing with her arm

TheArmoftheDemon_121028c_agostinoarts

The Arm of the Demon

Another illustration in the exhibit was of the Ibaraki Demon stealing her arm back, and finding out just what that was all about led me into the classic tale of Watanabe no Tsuna and his battle with a demon on a bridge — adding a potential new piece to the puzzle. The iconic image of Tsuna cutting the demon’s arm off  has been frequently illustrated by Japanese artists, and led me to another face for my tale.

Emaki are handscrolls that tell such tales through illustration and text, kind of like comic books, and you unroll them as you read them so the images go across your vision as the story progresses, kind of like movies. Finding a way to understand these stories as comic books and superhero movies gives me my own way in. The word “samurai”, to me, means Toshiro Mifune in the Kurasawa films I first saw as a kid. Seeing Kwaidan (1964) really chilled me, and seeing how Ping Chong recreated such a visually complex movie as a live performance with puppets (at the New Victory Theatre) was a major influence on my developing StoryFaces technique.

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Angry Ocean, Waterfall Tears ©2011 Christopher Agostino

To get a feel for this imagery and work out how I can get these images onto a face in a story, my exploration of these tales also included bodypaintings using imagery from Kuniyoshi and other printmakers, one of which was a full re-working of the  Ibaraki Demon tale, but I changed the name to “Irabaki” to indicate it wasn’t the traditional tale I’d found — though now that I’ve seen how many strange and wonderful versions there are for these legends I’m more comfortable taking my own path through to telling them while keeping their names intact.

Painted for Kryolan Professional Makeup at IMATS New York

The Irabaki Demon — a BodyStory — Painted for Kryolan Professional Makeup at IMATS New York

learn about all we do at:  agostinoarts.com  See the video: What Is A StoryFace?

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Some of my favorite spooky faces from the recent Halloween seasons. Halloween is like the national holiday for facepainting and the arts of transformation. Have fun, be bold and get creepy.

Check out the News/Schedule page to see where we’ll be this Halloween season, and come and be transformed.

 

Learn about all that we do at: agostinoarts.com

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StoryFaces — Visual Arts and Mask Workshops

Follow-up a StoryFaces Assembly Program with Classroom Workshops

Christopher’s surprising performance allows him to introduce students to complex educational concepts in an entertaining way in follow-up workshops for grade levels 2 – 12. The unique combination of visual and language arts at the heart of StoryFaces exemplifies using multiple strategies to communicate your story and demonstrates the power of art to convey social information, to retain and synthesize traditional wisdom, and to inspire — making this an ideal vehicle for workshops developing communication, visual storytelling and critical thinking skills. A variety of programs are available including mask design workshops and interdisciplinary programs combining ELA, Visual Arts and Social Studies in which students write stories and apply critical thinking to synthesize these stories into visual mask designs. Programs include:

•  My Amazing StoryFace Workshop  – telling a story through words and art 

•  Designing Tribal Masks – using symbology to bring ideas to life

•  Create Your Personal Superhero – a motivational mask arts program

and two special programs for Middle and High School:

             •  From Masks to Modern Art – a fascinating art history program 

             •  World Theatre Makeup – for theatre, art and fashion students

Classroom programs can be custom designed  in consultation with art teachers to fit a school’s curriculum goals.

*** Professional development workshop programs also available for teachers ***

———  scroll down for full descriptions  ———

———-    Return to homepage: agostinoarts.com   ———-

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Workshop and Demonstration Programs include:

My Amazing StoryFace Workshop

This activity gives students their own experience in visual storytelling, as they create an original story starring themselves, first through a drawing exercise, and then as a written story meant to be told  — based on one of my original stories (see The Amazing Face Video). For the drawing, students use a special Drawing Form in which they draw a cartoon picture of themselves in the story — just like the image I create in my performance.    Grade Levels: In Elementary schools, grades 2 and up have been able to complete the StoryFace drawing and a simple written story in a single workshop session.  In Middle and High Schools the concept of placing a portrait of yourself into an illustrated story can continue into a visual art project by incorporating other media, digital art, animation, etc. Please see the MyAmazingStoryFace_TeachersGuide  for full information.

Designing Tribal Masks

This project gives students an experiential understanding of the traditional approach to art in tribal cultures as they apply critical thinking to create an animal mask design using symbols to signify the animal — in a way that even elementary students can understand. This “mask-concept” approach moves the design process away from realism and illustration, into an exploration of communicating through symbolic art and abstraction, and can be a vehicle for creating original mask designs for students with any level of art skills. Grade Levels: Grades 4 and up have been able to complete a pencil sketch design for a Tribal Animal Mask in a single session, this design can be the basis for a mask-making project in subsequent art classes. Please see TribalMaskProject_TeachersGuide  for full information.

Creating Your Personal Superhero — Spirit Healing Masks

This is a unique interdisciplinary workshop program I’ve developed to get students to work on using critical thinking to synthesize and communicate information visually, through signs and symbols, in reference to the traditional role in some cultures of Spirit Masks that allow performers in rituals to represent ancestors and other powerful healing spirits that protect the people — kind of like our superhero movies. For Grade Levels 6 and up: To start, I ask each student to identify some social concern they would like to help solve — it can be anything, from the obvious ones such as “ending war” to smaller scale concerns, such as “helping stray dogs”. Next they determine what “powers” they would need as a “healing spirit” to achieve this task, and I present this via the idiom of modern superheroes —i.e., would you need to be able to fly in order to end war all around the world?  The students then choose a color or graphic symbol to represent each of the powers or “attributes” their character has, and they design their Personal Superhero mask using those symbols — this step moves the design beyond an illustrative approach towards symbolism and abstraction, as the mask will communicate information purely through colors and graphics, giving students an experiential understanding of the thinking process that underlies visual arts, including modern art, and also allows any student to make a successful design regardless of their drawing skills. The process can also include a writing assignment —  for example, students can write essays to accompany their designs, in which they describe the social concern, or find media links to examples of this problem, and develop a storyline for how their Personal Superhero/Healing Spirit will solve the problem. Please see SpiritHealingMask_DesignForm

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From Masks to Modern Art — for Middle and High Schools

Picasso/Nuba — a synthesis of a Picasso cubist portrait and a traditional design of the Southeast Nuba of Sudan

Picasso/Nuba — a synthesis of a Picasso cubist portrait and a traditional design of the Southeast Nuba of Sudan

This is a unique and fascinating program giving students a vehicle for understanding the origins of Modern Art by exploring how artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Klee found inspiration in the masks, sculptures and bodyarts of cultures in Africa and Oceania as they sought to create more powerful art forms with greater social impact — what the art historians call “Primitivism in Modern Art”. After viewing African sculptures in the Trocadero Musuem, Paris in 1907, Picasso is reported to have said: “Men had made those masks and other objects for a sacred purpose…At that moment I realized that this is what painting was all about…it’s a form of magic…a way of seizing power…When I came to this realization, I knew I had found my way.”

Art changed at the beginning of the 20th century in large part because these early Modern Artists saw that in traditional cultures art was not confined to being beautiful or decorative, but rather that traditional art and artists played a vital role in maintaining the social fabric of the community — that art could have the power to communicate complex social and political ideas and help make a better world.

Christopher Agostino has also explored this seminal moment in art history through a dramatic series of fine art body paintings: Modern Primitive Art

 ———-    Return to homepage: agostinoarts.com   ———-

—————————————  ADDITIONAL WORKSHOPS:  ———————————————–

World Theatre Makeup — for Theatre, Art and Fashion Students

From the very beginning of human culture we have used makeup and masks to transform our appearance and create a new identity. As ancient ritual evolved into theatre, makeup remained as the way for an actor to present an identity beyond their normal self. It is especially evident in non-western theatre, such as the Chinese Opera or Japanese Kabuki in which fantastically painted faces transform performers into gods, demons, heroes and all kinds of creatures to bring myths to life. Today, traditional designs are a source for creating theatrical magic in productions like Julie Taymor’s Lion King (with makeup based on Maasai body art) and in the fantastic special effects makeup that brings aliens and superheroes to life in Hollywood movies. Christopher Agostino uses makeup and mask art from world cultures to present the story of this fundamental art from ancient origins to modern theatre in this fascinating performance/lecture illustrated by his amazing facepainting on audience volunteers.

The participants from a Transformational Makeup lecture at the U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology Conference (USITT) in Houston, 2008.

The participants from a Transformational Makeup lecture at the U.S. Institute of
Theatre Technology Conference (USITT) in Houston, 2008.

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Transformation Facepainting for Arts-In-Education Events

Our professional company of artists present facepainting in an educational context using styles based on World Masks, Tribal Faces, Native American Totem concepts or cultural traditions from regions around the world, such as Dia De Los Muertes or Amazon Indians. The same artists seen at the Bronx Zoo and Tri-State area events can facepaint students to create a uniquely memorable cultural experience that goes far beyond how much fun they will have. Events can be tied into assembly programs and to specific cultural regions or areas of Social Studies.

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Makeup Artists for School Theatrical Productions

Transformation Facepainting for a school production of the Lion King

Transformation Facepainting for a school production of the Lion King

Our artists are also available to paint the faces of student performers for theatre productions and other special events. Bringing in professional artists is a thrilling experience for a young actor and a great confidence boost that makes a school production extra special.

 

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Japanese Demons and Kabuki Spooky —re-post

by Christopher Agostino
(the heaviest traffic on the site these past few days are people searching for scary stuff like demon imagery, so I am re-posting one from last Halloween season  — and come see me at the Prospect Park Zoo this Sat and Sunday (Oct 27+28) to get your face painted — and I will be telling a new mix of demon tales from my storytelling show: The Eye of the Demon)
I paint a lot of demon faces this time of year, many inspired by Japanese imagery and folktales. In 2008 particularly, I put an effort into exploring new face designs based on Japanese masks and kabuki makeup. That year I was painting at the Transworld Halloween Show  for Kryolan Professional Makeup and took the approach at the event to paint horror faces based on world mask designs, as a contrast to the traditional zombies and skulls, so most of the examples here are from around that time.
     
This mask is a contemporary example of a Namahage Demon from the Akita Prefecture. It is worn for a traditional Lunar New Year celebration which sounds like Halloween in reverse, as young men wear the masks and visit people’s houses to scare their children and admonish them to listen to their parents—or the demons will come back! The parents reward the young men with sake and food. Although frightening, Namahage are said to be gods who bring good fortune, an example of the beliefs connected to spirit worship traditions in which powerful demonic spirits can become protective when they are appeased. Check out the Japanese movies Onmyoji and Onmyoji 2 for a fun depiction of demonic possession and the Ying-Yang master that has to restore the balance.
      In folktales, Japanese demons come with various descriptions. Some may be red or blue faced, with fangs, horns and one, two or three eyes. In the tale of the famous samurai Raiko and his battle with the Goblin Earth Spider, he is attacked by an army that drops out of the storm clouds, including animals that walk like men, beings with three claws and three eyes—one with eyes in its hands—and long serpents with human heads. There’s a few ideas for facepainting. At an exhibit of prints by the artist Kuniyoshi last year at the Japan Society I was very jazzed to see two illustrations of Raiko vs. the Earth Spider with imagery that has re-invigorated the way I tell and depict that tale through faces.
     
The prevalence of such beliefs within the medieval Japanese culture allowed for the growth in Edo province of “Aragato,” the style of Kabuki theater which produced the famous makeup for its samurai hero and for the ghosts and demons he would battle. The origin of Kabuki and other Japanese theater in shamanic ritual and spirit worship is evident in the hero’s ability to do the impossible because they have allowed themselves to be possessed by a powerful kami (“supernatural deity”) and thus have become hitokami (“man-gods”). Continue reading

Watanabe No Tsuna and the Ibaraki Demon in Japanese Art

Come see me at the Kryolan Professional Makeup booth at IMATS New York, April 14 to see the painted body I’ve designed based on this image research and the story of the battle between Watanabe no Tsuna and the Irabaki Demon.

I had no idea this story was such a well known legend until I did a Google Image search of “Watanabe No Tsuna” and turned up a lot of results, many of them depictions of the battle with the Irabaki Demon. Here are a few:

Depicting the demon having recovered her arm - by Kiyotada

Continue reading