" Yarli Allison - Art

A Wave Of Garden Things Falls on U
A Wave Of Garden Things Falls on U


Part I Charlie Barlow (Performer/Artist) + Mavi Haro (Butoh Dancer) / 3 hours
Part II Butoh Dancer Mavi Haro Solo / 2.5 hours

Research Objects from V&A Museum of Childhood


For years I have been stroke by the same memory, of seeing children pushing toy buggies into the wall. Unlike many adults aware of consequences, therefore push it slowly and carefully, the child runs in zig-zag and crashes the buggy all the time. A gesture of complete freedom, recklessness, neglect, and innocence.

'What will happen, if..?' Is one of the question children asks the most. An adult could play curiously only when one overcome the burdens of perception and knowledge, by achieving the act of letting go. The process of letting go, reforming and letting go, is not unfamiliar to the Garden city’s value. Letting go of restrictions is the only way to build new values. When Edward Howard introduce his social reform vision in 1897 on how utopia should look like, Letchworth Garden City was founded. Its forward visions were so debatable at its time by foreigners: banning corsets, forbidding alcohols, women could vote, introducing vegetarian schools, kitchen and laundry area moving indoor to be more inclusive, everyone owning an affordable house, leaving the wild nature untouched and accessible…so on. So on those ideas were executed a century ago and we are still fighting for them today.

Nowadays, the toy buggies used to raise our grandpas grandmas, have entered the Heritage Foundation collection as vintage items. No difference than V&A Museum of Childhood in London, the toys were described as living symbols on how one is expected to grow up at that very era. They are the reminders of the last generations’ hope for future, how would the future become with its ever-evolving technology. These ideations are embedded in every toy item as training tools for our next generation. Although world's digital technologies are advancing, our babies’ social behaviors adapted accordingly, but the hope of bringing in a utopia seems to remain in the past as merely an ideation. Look around our current world, instead of opening borders for an inclusive world, we shut them. We shut the outside voices, the aliens, when we don't understand them nor wanting to be understood. We build dystopias as we thought this could protect our values.


Aesthetics did go for a revolution, as Butoh dance came along in the 60s in Japan. The East has long appreciated beautiful things: Nature, flowers, butterflies, mountain, skylight, animal and birth. Sure. Then here comes the war. Here comes death, as here comes life. If life is beautiful, why shouldn’t death also be appreciated? What can beauty be then? Can it be the process of experiencing life itself? For anthropologist and Butoh dancer Mavi Haro, the constant rethinking of beauty is through her body’s uncomfortable stances while performing. Ever-changing positions yet every movement exposes her to discomfort. The process gives chance to living life through the purest gaze. Endurance, shitting, dying, distorting, embarrassing, crying….all is beauty, even with suffering. For many yet to find their way to fend off dysfunctional relationships and toxic thoughts, her Butoh is here to say that any form of life is okay. Every reflection and awareness raised are as valuable and as beautiful as its struggles.


I learned that as I vomited my sculptures out to the studio space, I am aware that everything was born with a function of play. What is the point of not having fun? Things are prepared to be born and destroyed. The drums that one could step on. The grass balls you could throw. The fragile baby garden chair and table with wheels. Sweets on the table, eat them. The meditation boxes, made in pair, one semi-transparent and one formed only by its skeleton. One could squeeze inside, sensing trapped, and see only blurs. Everything presents a form of interpersonal relationship in different mental spaces firing its own fun.

The adult play, stripping away the sweet coat of theories, could interact one and another with recklessness, neglect and innocent. What is better than Mavi Haro’s style of Butoh in Letchworth Garden City, as an anthropologist, studying diasporas theories but at the same time so destructive like a child at play? The Butoh dancer, I describe as the younger baby, is deeply cared for by an older sister (performer Charlie Barlow) who unconsciously avoid forming an attachment with the real world. I imagine Charlie as a city person enters the wild untouched woods ‘Norton common’ in the heart of Letchworth. Slowly entering from the city, the sound of the busy driveway takes over by the sound of wild animals. The life that you know of vanishes behind as you step further into the mystic wild surrounding by tall ancient trees. Deep in the woods, enough until your body’s completely convinced that you are indeed inside the wild, while your mind says ‘hey, making a way out of the woods is just a 10 mins walk away’. I imagine Charlie’s state of mind as her journey deep into the woods. And if anyone can give her a pullback to reality, that will be Mavi’s calling as a baby doing weird things. The performers, both hyper-reactive and sensitive, are polar ends in approaching the notion of play. One as a protector, one as a destroyer.


Letchworth Garden City was an 'old rule destroyer', especially pushing boundaries of body-positivity, by liberating female from corsets in its time. We have discussed this matter one century after, today, whether liberating female’s breasts, particularly the swinging tits by natural movements (yes, tits do bounce while one walks naturally), is seen as the object of seduction in the contemporary world. In the long history of diverse art context, female breasts often represent the beauty of birth and humanity. While nowadays, the beauty of it seems to have vanished, as we care more about what shall be censored than wanting to understand whatever messages the artist wishes to deliver. It works like this: If you don't understand, it's better to not talk about it. Don't talk. Don't ask. Don't look at the swinging boobs! It will ruin your purity, because boobs in public must be evil, and boobs bouncing must only be seen in porn. What else might it be? Can't it be a celebration of the natural body? Can't it be a topless dancer doing her moves? No, censor it. Don't talk, don't ask, don't look, breasts are 'inappropriate objects'. Don't look into the mirror, too, as you will only see the inappropriate object hanging on your body. As we censor, we shut senses, we shut our capability of listening. As is our appreciation of life.

Have anyone tried to ask your parents something when you're small, and that they demand you to ask no more? 'You'll understand when you grow up.' Thing is, this kind of attitude doesn't foster curiosity but shame. Moral codes have taught us how we shall feel in certain ways, and these feelings have overclouded individual judgments. A narrow-minded will not be as creative as an open-minded, because the former is in constant denial of possible ways to create beyond one's comfort zone. Butoh dance, in a way, is not to be understood with learned judgments. The full picture of the dance is a river of let go, reform and let go. To always ask what if, to push beyond mistakes, I see is the key to a strong improvisation. Therefore, everything can be Butoh, with no definite answer. And how one understands from the dance reflects deeply on how they are as a being. If one limits themselves to see past theories (the protection), one may never be curious and brave enough to truly live life.


The second day, the decision of Mavi dancing solo without the caring sister, and dressed (versus topless) has shifted the dynamic. Mavi was unleashed. Free from restriction, she took a Butoh walk on her own to the public. The exhibition objects were merely a backdrop, her moves filled with child eye’s curiosity, sentiment and explosion. The long durational performance has brought participant touching tears that is impossible to transmit its tensions in a single video teaser.

What I understand is that the tears shed for Mavi’s Butoh performance is something very sincere and pure. Because the dance form is totally free from intellectualization, it remains unprotected. Being connected is about opening up completely with the ability to expose all of yourself to embrace the potential of getting hurt physically and mentally. Push that buggy without care but love your toy with all your heart. Something may get destroyed but you are completely thrown to lived that precious moment. This is exactly how children’s creativity kicks in, that provoke something very pure in heart.


Now, in this open studio, I want to share this Butoh dance experience with you:
You are invited to interact with the ‘playground’ referencing the toys of the old time.
(you agree to take responsibility for your own risk)

Take an object. Try not to jump to meaning and analyzation.
Try not to take a selfie just yet.
Use 1 minute, feel its texture, observe its shape, its color, its marks, and errors, lift it up, feel its weigh, make some sound.

In the next minute,
Imagine how it was made.
Makeup stories of why it's made,
how it could be used with other objects.
If you would have made it differently, what you'll change.

Repeat this exercise with other objects.
Carry this technique with you everywhere you go,
you'll find new ways to experience the world

If you can, get in one of those boxes, stay inside for at least 30 seconds (count it in heart),
observe your own mind and embrace your anxieties, if any.
When you get out, notice any judgments (positive or negative),
try to let go of any criticism for 10 seconds.
If your mind could be free from intellect (thinking) for even a few seconds
carry on to practice longer, longer, longer
every time you enter this state of mind
it's the peace you have made with yourself.

A Wave Of Things Falls on U, 2019
Performance Dates: 19 May (4pm-7:30pm) & 22 May (2:30pm-5:30pm)

This work is Made possible by supports:

EASTCHEAP PROJECTS / EASTCHEAP STUDIOS, Chantelle Stephenson & Sean Pearce
@ The Arcade, Museum, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 3BB

Yarli Allison (CAN/HK) / @yarliallison
Butoh Dancer: Mavi Haro (FR/ES) / @maviharobutoh
Performer: Charlie Barlow (UK) / @charlie__barlow

Yarli Allison - Work YARLI ALLISON (b.88) is a Hong Kong-Canadian born, London-based artist with a multidisciplinary approach that traverses drawing, sculpture, performance, digital, film and installation.