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The ArtLab Hosts ‘Koizumi,’ an Art Experiment

The ArtLab, a newly created center for arts innovation, is located on North Harvard St. in Allston.
The ArtLab, a newly created center for arts innovation, is located on North Harvard St. in Allston. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Tomás Guerrero Jaramillo, Contributing Writer

On Oct. 28, a rainy evening, the Harvard ArtLab hosted a performance titled “Koizumi,” an experimental work by the Boston Arts Collective, MASARY, and musician Jean Laurenz. The work centered around the life of Lafcadio Hearn, an intellectual from the 19th century who was the great-great-uncle of Jean Laurenz, the trumpetist of the performance. The piece focused on the supernatural element of his writings.

The work comprised a 50-minute music performance overlaid with video projections of different designs and animations produced by the group. The artists performed the piece in a white, four-walled room. Jean Laurenz, Maria Finkelmeier, and Ryan Edwards stood in front of the audience playing the piece while Sam Okerstrom-Lam managed the sound and projections from the back of the room. In the center of the stage, the artists placed a snare drum with a light shining underneath it and a big white circle in the right upper section of the background wall that resembled a full moon.

"We wanted to have Lafcadio on stage somehow,” Finkelmeier said during a question and answer session.

During the performance, the three artists shifted across the space, approaching the steel drum in front or stepping on raised surfaces to make their presence stick out of the scene. The artists composed the original piece collaboratively and incorporated some spoken Japanese and unintelligible whispering as part of the composition.

During his life, Lafcadio lived in Greece, Dublin, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Martinique. In Ohio, he married Alethea Foley, who was born into slavery — a marriage illegal at the time in the state. A journalist and a writer, he dealt extensively with subjects related to the places he lived. He is most recognized for his ghost stories, which introduced Japanese ghost folktales to the west. Though Laurenz has known about Lafcadio for her whole life, she did not become interested in him until more recently. Her father dug up the particular character from the family history, and after some time, she took an interest of her own.

“I think I read a ghost story about a woman who was dying, and she suddenly became possessed. Her last feelings and thoughts were jealousy towards this other young woman who would then become her husband’s wife,” Laurenz said of how she became interested in Lafcadio’s story.

Lafcadio’s life is full of a multiplicity of cultures.

“We are nodding to the intercultural. We are taking away the words though and just trying to address the feelings behind the words, the stories,” Laurenz said. “Then there isn’t a descriptor that pigeonholes the piece.”

After the performance, people collected feedback from the audience, taking notes on clipboards near the exit of the ArtLab. The work was supposed to be a piece of art in the process. The ArtLab is a house for the artistic process. The ArtLab, which opened earlier this semester, is a space for artistic experimentation, but its concrete role is not yet defined.

“We are co-creating the program with the Harvard Community,” Bree Edwards, the director of the Harvard ArtLab, said. “It would be limiting if one person determined what would be done.”

During its first year, the ArtLab will focus on public events like “Koizumi,” bringing in the public to experience the space. Next year, the ArtLab wants to shift its efforts toward its resident program. Edwards said the organization will provide a space for multidisciplinary collaboration where artists and non-artists from a multitude of disciplines and from all over Boston can come together to build great projects.

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