Kimi Maeda

Kimi Maeda’s solo performance, Bend, tells the true story of two men interned in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II: Maeda’s father, an Asian Art historian currently suffering from dementia, and the subject of his research, Isamu Noguchi, a half-Japanese-half-American sculptor.

Kimi Maeda drawing a guard tower during a performance of Bend in Chicago.

Kimi Maeda drawing a guard tower during a performance of Bend in Chicago.

Weaving together live feed projections of sand drawings with archival footage from the 1940s, Maeda’s performance poses important questions about how the Japanese American internment camps will be remembered.

Maeda will perform the event in Little Rock on Thursday, August 27 at the Ron Robinson Theater and in McGehee on Friday, August 28 at the McGehee High School Auditorium. A “talk back” with Richard Yada, who was born at Rohwer, and University of Arkansas at Little Rock public historian Dr. Johanna Lewis will follow the performances. In collaboration with the Arkansas Archeological Survey and the WWII Japanese American Internment Camp Museum, she will also host a youth workshop at the museum on Saturday, August 29.

Many years ago, Robert Maeda began writing a book about the modernist sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Though perhaps not the best known artist of his time, Noguchi’s work appears in a wide range of spaces and contexts both public and private: Piedmont Park’s playground in Atlanta, the relief mural of the Associated Press Building at Rockefeller Center, the giant Red Cube in New York’s Financial District, set pieces for Martha Graham, and countless lamps, tables, and stone sculptures. Having already made a name for himself as an artist, however, Noguchi voluntarily entered a Japanese American internment camp during World War II.

It was in that camp that Robert Maeda, a nine-year-old boy at the time, observed Noguchi working on his sculptures. Years later Maeda became an Asian art historian and cited that time in camp as a defining moment in his life. Although he published several articles and gave numerous lectures on Noguchi’s work and family life, his book about Noguchi was never completed. As dementia gradually overtook Maeda’s life, his daughter, Kimi, was inspired to take on the task he started decades ago, exploring the life of Noguchi in relation to his (and her) own personal history. Using sand as her canvas, Kimi transforms image after image, combining live feed projection of these drawings with archival footage.

Kimi Maeda is a theatre artist based in Columbia, SC, whose intimate visual performances cross disciplines and push boundaries. Bend is the final installment in her ephemera trilogy, a collection of sand drawing and shadow performances that deal with memory, home, and trans-cultural identity. In 2011 she founded Belle et Bête, a puppet production and promotion company, with artist Lyon Hill. Together they produce the bi-annual Spork in Hand Puppet Slam, inviting puppet artists from across the Southeast to perform short, experimental pieces for adult audiences. They also created Planet Hopping, an intergalactic puppet adventure, as well as Grime and Glory, a multimedia puppet celebration of barbecue pitmasters.

Kimi received her MFA in scenic design from the University of South Carolina, her MA in Scenography from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, and her BA in studio art from Williams College. She received a Jim Henson Foundation Seed Grant for the development of Bend. She was also the recipient of the 2005 Rose Brand Award from the United States Institute of Theatre Technology and her costume design for Polaroid Stories was chosen for display in the 2007 Prague Quadrennial. She has designed sets and costumes in Columbia, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Baltimore, Norfolk, London, and Sevilla and was a puppeteer for several years for the Columbia Marionette Theatre.

Tickets for the performance of Bend at the Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock are $10 and can be purchased at: arkansasarcheology.org/Bend. The show starts at 7 p.m. and doors open at 6:30 p.m. The Ron Robinson Theater is located at 100 Rivermarket Avenue, Little Rock.

The Bend performance at the McGehee High School on Friday, August 28 is free and open to the public. The show starts at 7 p.m. and doors open at 6:30 p.m. McGehee High School is located at 1902 East Ash Street in McGehee.

Participants in the youth workshop will see Bend, a live multi-media performance by Kimi Maeda, learn some words in Japanese, eat a meal inspired by menus recovered from the Japanese American internment camps, and explore the World War II Japanese American Internment Museum. They will also get to practice the tricks and techniques used in sand drawing to tell their own stories that we’ll share in a slide-show presentation at the end of the day. This free workshop is designed for students in grades 6-12. Space is limited. It will be held at the WWII Japanese American Internment Museum on 100 S. Railroad Street in McGehee from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. To sign up, contact Jodi Barnes at [email protected] or 870-460-1290.

The project is supported by the The Jim Henson Foundation, Tapp’s Arts Center, the South Carolina Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of SC, Alternate ROOTS, the Arkansas Arts Council, the New England Japanese American Citizens League (NEJACL), the Arkansas Archeological Survey, and the Ko Festival of Performance.