How to Catch an Eel, 23 minutes, June 29, 2012
To the Stars on the Wings of an Eel, Gowanus Ballroom, Brooklyn, June 29-July 7, 2012
curated by Ethan Spigland, Serban Ionescu, George Sferra, and Josh Young.
A theatrical piece inspired by the kōan portrayed in a painting Catching cat-fish with a gourd (Hyōnen-zu) by Josetsu, along with live overtone singing performed by Danny Mallon. The Zen riddle, "How do you catch a catfish with a gourd?" has no definite answer, but rather, it's a metaphor for various struggles in the journey of life. The bottle gourd has a small opening and the catfish is slippery, therefore catching the catfish is impossible. The performance is an adaptation of this metaphor, and an exploration of a life journey.
A woman dressed in pure white descends a perilous staircase, and in a trance, she approaches a muddy pool of eels. She tries to catch an eel with a bottle gourd attached to her veil. It's a childlike game at first. She smiles and jumps about. It's an impossible task to catch a slippery creature with such a small bottle. She gets carried away and enters the pool, muddying her white dress. She searches the muddy pool in vein. Increasingly, she becomes frustrated, crying and screaming in desperation. In the end, she gently holds a quiet eel in her embrace. At that point, her veil is gone, her dress all muddy. She slowly lies down in the mud and strokes the eel on her chest and lets it slither away. After the intense struggle to capture an eel, she has come to a realization that all of it is futile. The goal in the end is not to catch an eel, which only results in violence and greed. The way to find peace is to become the eel. After the eel slithers away from her chest, she takes off the dirty dress and becomes one with the mud.
No eels were harmed in the performance.