Fragile
photo by Anna Lee Campbell

Fragile (2012)

Fragile, a collaborative event created and performed by Kronos Quartet and Eiko & Koma, had its premiere on  February 22-23, 2012 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, which commissioned the work. Fragile, a 4 hour durational performance, is a sister piece to Eiko & Koma's 2010 living installation Naked, commissioned by the Walker Art Center.

By combining the environment handcrafted by Eiko & Koma for Naked with an evocative sound score conceived and prepared by David Harrington and performed live by Kronos Quartet, the artists together create a new performance that inherits Naked’s intimacy but offers a new dynamism and complexity for both performers and audience alike. Lighting design is by David Ferri in collaboration with Eiko & Koma.

Eiko & Koma and Kronos Quartet previously worked together to create and perform the proscenium version of River (1997). This current collaboration was conceived when the members of Kronos Quarter visited Eiko & Koma's studio when they were rehearsing for Naked. Much to  Eiko & Koma's surprise, David's Fragile score incorporates audio including President Truman's address on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an interview with J. Robert Oppenheimer, and reports on the Tohoku tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

David Harrington (Kronos Quartet) writes about the collaboration:

I visited Eiko & Koma at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City to see their piece Naked, which was in development. I was totally unprepared for what I saw. I've never wept at a dance performance before. But there we were together: In a darkened space, their glacial nakedness had become a deeper expression than I remembered, much deeper and somehow more exposed. Their scope of expression had found more revealing forms since I first saw their work, in late 1995 or early 1996. I realized that I was witnessing an absolute center of life, where all layers of protection are removed, where time is irrelevant. Their performance had led me back once again to being a naked infant. The image I was left with was that we are all naked, aging infants in the face of the universe. Eiko & Koma's bodies had become metaphors for the universal, fragile nakedness we try to hide. Their bare skin and awesome, slow movements had become a story of communal privacy. To me this is the precise area where music is most alive.

Later Eiko said something that was perfect. She said, in her inimitable light and off-handed way, “Of course we don't really need music for our work.” What greater challenge can be issued to a group of musicians? Kronos is greatly looking forward to exploring together with Eiko & Koma.

read Eiko & Koma's interview with Isak Immanuel about Fragile and the Retrospective Project on the Off Center blog