Part of Mariangeles Soto-Diaz’s ongoing artist residency at Grand Central Arts Center, Gentle Prowess Deliberations is the third project in a series in which the artist incorporate judo principles and elements into art objects, installations, performances and social practice with her judo community. This project focuses on ju, or gentle, one of the core concepts of judo. The work also grapples with the ongoing reality of violence, including the violence that has led to over six million people leaving the artists native country of Venezuela in recent years. How does one practice ju in a world shaped by oppressive violence?
While growing up in Venezuela, Soto-Dia’s judo teachers were intent on transmitting judo’s international sensibility as intertwined with its pacifist ethos, a key principle articulated by judo founder Jigoro Kano. Through these early experiences, Mariangeles was able to begin the philosophical and rhetorical quest into what this might mean as one confronts a powerful opponent, institution, or system.
For this project, the artist approaches ju in several ways. She asked judo colleagues and teachers from two different dojos, Bunasawakai and Sawtelle, to characterize ju in their own words, and then incorporated their answers into aspects of the performance and installation. She weaves into the performance movements from a choreographed judo form that centers around ju, called ju-no-kata, performed here by US National champions Lee Pasteris and Frederick Dagdagan. Soto-Diaz incorporates judo movements performed by two of her sensei, grand master Sensei Nori Bunasawa and Sensei Goya. In addition to these four highly ranked master judokas, the artist is collaborating in the performance with dancer, choreographer and UCI professor Charlotte Griffin and art performer Christina Segovia. The evening will include field recordings from judo competitions at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo as well as the US, with live and processed sound in collaboration with musician Michael Dessen.