GHOST OF SHOWA is an elaboration of the themes of the performance lecture ‘Kishi the Vampire’, continuing to look at the specters that haunt the economy of modern East Asia and the darkly ambiguous legacy of opium in the development of the Asian state. The work focuses on two opposing figures within the Japanese colonial sphere; the colonial bureaucrat, prime minister and war criminal Nobusuke Kishi and the voices of the un-named, subaltern women in the Japanese dominions of China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Kishi is the amoral protagonist in a phantasmagorical retelling of 20th century East Asian political economy as a modern horror story, focusing on the Japanese ‘puppet state’ of Manchukuo where Kishi served time as a bureaucrat and indulged his economic fantasies. The piece moves between a narration of Kishi’s life and a counter-narrative revealed through the historical witness figure of the grandmother, telling the interlocking stories of the Chinese, Korean and Japanese women and men who bore the burden of Japanese economic policy, told as an opium dream poem whose stories combine to weave a portrait of the colonial state from the point-of-view of the oppressed. Woven through the narrative of the performance is a description of the economic role played by opium within the structure of the colonial state, as a commodity for the primitive accumulation of capital and a subjugating narcotic that reduced the will of the native population to resist the regime itself. 

The performance will move between lecture and dance, the piece playing out as an elaborate butoh, the avant-garde dance movement which itself arose as a grotesque and animalistic reaction to the same period of rapid modernization and history in Japan’s race for industrialization. With the grandmother as narrator, the capitalist male and the female subaltern engage in a minimalist ‘dance of darkness’.




PERFORMERS: Bo Wang and Yangjah Shin


SOUND: John Bartley

ANIMATION: Zheng Mahler Studio

Ghost of Showa is a joint coproduction by the Theatre der Welt in Germany, the National Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art in Seoul, South Korea and the Asian Culture Center in Gwangju, South Korea. It has its world premiere at the 2017 Theatre der Welt on the 31st May 2017 at the Thalia Theatre Gaußtraße in Hamburg. ‘Ghost of Showa’ was developed out of the performance ‘Kishi the Vampire’ by Royce Ng commissioned by You Mi for the exhibition program ‘Transgression and Syncretism’ at the Asia Culture Center Theatre in Gwangju, South Korea March 11-13 2016. Commissioned and produced by the Asia Culture-Center Theatre. Executive Producer and Program Advisor Louiza bvba/Els Silvrants-Barclay.