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It may seem odd to say that the ultra-high-tech Japanese performance collective Dumb Type is advancing the ideals of the decidedly low-tech Dada movement. The dadaists were passionately antiart, issuing absurdly insupportable manifestos, reciting gibberish from makeshift cabaret stages, pasting garbage to canvases, and generally spitting on the artistic establishment. Dumb Type, by contrast, appear regularly at the world’s highest-profile venues, where their exquisitely trained bodies, technical wizardry, and lyrical, explosive imagery place them among the elitest of the elite. Still, the group’s cofounder and original director, Teiji Furuhashi, did study under Dada devotee Sekine Seinosuke at the Kyoto University of the Arts. “Commercial things, the show business idea, are the enemy for us,” he wrote a few years after Dumb Type’s 1984 debut. Although Furuhashi died of AIDS in 1995, the company continues his legacy, producing adamantly uncommercial work every bit as aggravating, inexplicable, and just plain goofy as a Dada soiree. The newest piece, Memorandum, purportedly “explores the construct of personal and social memory through a series of stylized and surreal vignettes.” But like OR, the piece Dumb Type brought to Chicago two years ago, Memorandum remains stubbornly mysterious–an expertly orchestrated, thrillingly scored enigma. Four video projectors cast Shiro Takatani’s rapid-fire images onto a giant translucent screen that bisects the stage from side to side, the screen and projected imagery often intentionally overshadowing Takao Kawaguchi and Noriko Sunayama’s desperate, pedestrian choreography. There isn’t a shred of narrative to tie the evening’s breathtaking images together, so it’s anyone’s guess how the dancing bears and wandering hula dancers fit into this menacing hallucination. No matter–the way Dumb Type’s marauding technology batters and ennobles the tenderest of human interactions gives their work an exhilarating poignancy rarely seen in high-tech pieces. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. Opens Thursday, February 28, 8 PM. Through March 3: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 4 PM. $22.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): E. Valette.