Symphony No.2 in O, Dédicace-Fantaisie

Adam Wojcinski

To Cite this Contribution

Wojcinski, A.(2016). Symphony No.2 in O, Dédicace-Fantaisie. p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e, 3.

Symphony No.2 in O, Dédicace-Fantaisie

A tea gathering by Adam Wojcinski for the “Cuisine & Performance issue of the journal p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e.

Furuta Oribe’s style of tea was a dynamic play of incommensurable aesthetic ideals. His tea gatherings  invited intimacy with a much fuller human reality than that of his contemporaries that focused on the aesthetic value of existential loneliness and impermanence. In the one tea gathering, Oribe celebrated elegance, absurdity, eroticism and the unconscious. The unconscious was not merely an object for meditation for Oribe, it was a world to walk through, sit in, feel with all the senses; to drink.

Kabuki, meaning ‘bizarre’, ‘avant-garde’ and ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ was the emerging, controversial performance art of Oribe’s time. This movement deeply influenced Oribe’s tea. Oribe commissioned warped tea bowls that sang as ciphers of hidden flesh and symbols of the unconscious. He made rules for tea and shattered them, constantly daring his guests to piece together his aesthetic play. The elements of a tea gathering became a participatory performance exploring aesthetic fetishes. Oribe distilled the overt pleasure of kabuki into silent theatre, into tea gatherings that transformed himself and his guests through psychological pleasure and pain. This jouissance provoked an eruption of the ‘real’ within the self. But the intensity of Oribe, like his teacher Rikyu before him, provoked such jouissance in society that it could not be borne without the extinction of the artist.

Oribe’s life ended with his seppuku (ritual suicide) in 1615. On the 400th anniversary of Furuta Oribe’s death, Symphony No.2 in O, Dédicace-Fantaisie speculates the evolution of tea laced with kabuki: the jouissance of tea had Oribe’s life not been cut short.

Historical Composition

Symphony No.2 in O, Dédicace-Fantaisie hypothesises the evolution of tea gatherings had Oribe’s influence continued past his untimely death. A set structure for tea gatherings was decided in Oribe’s time with diverse artistic elements and ceremonies. This structure was called ‘chaji’, written ‘茶事’ in Japanese meaning ‘tea event’ and followed the following key movements:

  1. Charcoal and incense ceremony
  2. Kaiseki meal including sake and tea sweet to finish

– Interval in tea garden –

  1. Koicha thick tea ceremony
  2. Usucha thin tea ceremony

The composition of each movement included an arrangement of tea ceremony, incense ceremony, flowers, poetry, ceramics, calligraphy, ink painting, fine cuisine, sake, room and garden design, all threaded with Zen, Daoist, Shinto and Esoteric Buddhist themes. The tea master had to be proficient in all these elements. Most tea masters simply held amiable tea events. But Oribe was a revolutionary. He used the elements and structure of a chaji to rupture the psychology of his guests, severing them from the everyday world; inviting them to question that world. The ‘separate world’ (別世界) of the chaji became a place to penetrate to the raw lifeblood of the self.

Oribe was tea master to the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Tokugawa Shogunate was acutely aware of the power of the chaji to subdue and subvert feudal lords and their regimes. With the counsel of Oribe, Shogun Hidetada introduced systematic visits to feudal lords and their domains for tea, theatre and feasting. This visit was called the ‘sukiya onari’. The sukiya onari started in 1612 and built on the format of the first Shogun onari (visit of the Shogun to the residence of a feudal lord) that was conducted during the time of the Ashikaga Shogunate (1336–1573). This original Shogun onari ran as follows:

  1. Shogun bestows gifts to the feudal lord in a shoin (writing desk) room
  2. Feudal lord offers gifts to the Shogun in hiroma room
  3. Viewing of a Noh theatre performance conducted in the garden of the hiroma room
  4. Return to the shoin room and partake of a ‘kyōzen’ meal of fine cuisine

Tokugawa Hidetada added a chaji to the start of these proceedings. This new sukiya onarai’(‘sukiya’ designating the tea aspect) was conducted as follows:

  1. Charcoal and incense ceremony
  2. Kaiseki meal including sake and tea sweet to finish

– Interval in tea garden –

  1. Koicha thick tea ceremony
  2. Usucha thin tea ceremony

– change into formal attire and cross from the tea room complex to large shoin reception complex-

  1. Shogun bestows gifts to the feudal lord in a shoin (writing desk) room
  2. Feudal lord offers gifts to the Shogun in hiroma room
  3. Viewing of a Noh theatre performance conducted in the garden of the hiroma room.
  4. Return to the shoin room and indulge in a ‘kyōzen’ meal of fine cuisine.

The sukiya onari was the culmination of tea master Oribe’s influence on the power regimes and psyche of a nation. Three years after the inauguration of the sukiya onari, Oribe was suspected of treason by the Tokugawa Shogunate and condemned to ritual suicide by disembowelment.

New Composition

Four hundred years later, we hardly have the soul to devote an entire day to artistic and cultural pursuits such as the poetical medley of tea, incense, performance, ceramics, calligraphy, fine cuisine and flowers found in the sukiya onari. But we still seek psychological pleasure and pain through art. Most of all, we want for transformative experience in which we become aware of the corrosive effects of ego, reawaken to an enchanted view of the world, and experience the rapture of being alive. With all this in mind, through Symphony No.2 in O, Dédicace-Fantaisie I propose a new form of chaji, a participatory performance of five movements:

  1. Preliminary performance and incense ceremony
  2. Usucha thin tea
  3. Koicha thick tea


  1. Kaiseki meal
  2. Final Performance

In this structure for a ‘symphony’ I have edited the traditional chaji and sukiya onari to their essential elements for transformative experience. I have guessed that Oribe would have preferred the kabuki theatre of his day in place of the noh performance in the sukiya onari. Such a radical statement in the sukiya onari would have been too much for his contemporaries to take in a time of civil war. Kabuki grew out of opposition to noh with view to shock audiences with contemporary themes. But like noh, over time kabuki also became a stylised slave to its own heritage. Here we see a great parallel with the Japanese tea ceremony of modern times. The dance form I employed therefore was butoh, and I wrote new tea ceremonies rich in symbolism relevant for a culture that is both aware and hungry for the truths lying in universal consciousness, alchemy and esoteric thought.

Performance Notes

1st Movement: A Vision

Kanzeon, the Goddess of Mercy, appeared to guests and transmitted the ingredients for a tea for health and prosperity. The tea was ‘Ōbukucha’, the ingredients of which were: matcha powdered green tea, umeboshi pickled plum, kuromame sweet black bean, and sanshō Japanese pepper. This performance was based on legend:

Emperor Murakami (926-967) was a devout worshipper of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy (Kanzeon). At the time of serious illness, the Goddess appeared to the sick Emperor in a dream and directed him to drink a special tea to heal his illness. Emperor Murakami followed the Goddess message and he soon made a complete recovery. After this happening, shrines and temples began conducting a ceremony for this tea, called ōbukucha, for all people.

After transmission, Kanzeon gave the guests the ingredients of ōbukucha to take into the 2nd Movement.


The Goddess of Mercy role was performed by Casey Jenkins in her durational community engagement artWORK ‘Body of Work’, which was running in a gallery adjoining the venue of Symphony No. 2. No images were taken from this part of the performance in line with the requirements of Casey’s performance.

2nd Movement: Tea Duet

Heterophony emerges naturally in the tea duet, as is some musical duets. Heterophony is a phenomenon where each of the performers are essentially playing the same melodic line, but one will precede the other for a while, then they play in unison, and then one takes off on a slight deviation and returns to a staggered unison. It is integral to Japanese music as exemplified in the performance of the jiuta repertoire of the shamisen, voice, koto and shakuhachi. A most enchanting texture results, making the fleeting moments of unison all the more beautiful.

All guests partook of ōbukucha during the tea duet.

Performers: Adam Wojcinski, Stephanie Mills

3rd Movement: Yin Yang and 5 Elements Koicha

The ceremony started with an palo santo incense offering. I then performed the tradition of ‘hana shomō’ or ‘arrangement of flowers before guests’ with a live person as the flower ornament. The kabuki of Oribe’s time used shibari (rope bondage) techniques in performances. Referencing this I used shibari to bring the performer into form, affix a vase and flowers to them to create a live object for appreciation during the tea ceremony.

I created a new koicha (thick tea) ceremony for a large number of guests based on Yin Yang and Five Elements philosophy, universal consciousness and the practice of temazcal from Mesoamerica. In this shamanistic ceremony, guests are transformed through union with the elements of nature, sacred male and sacred female. To enhance the experience of guests I employed the spontaneous song of Gaia, channelled by voice healer Sarah Wilmot. These vocals references the playing of shakuhachi or shinobue flutes during a tea ceremony, called ‘kagebue’ or ‘flute of the shadows’ in tea tradition.

Five bowls of thick tea were prepared over the course of the ceremony, one for each element. All guests shared the tea. The ceremony finished with my poem ‘Old Tree’, elucidating the essential spirit through which the chashaku tea scoop was carved.

Credits: Adam Wojcinski (ceremony, shibari), Sarah Wilmot (improvised sound, channelling), Hannah Baek Wha (incense ceremony & live sculpture)

4th Movement: Banquet

All food was vegan street food to suggest street cuisine consumed at a Kabuki (street theatre) performance of Oribe’s time. In Esoteric Buddhist practice vegan fair is used during times of intense meditation for personal transformation.

Credits: All food prepared was by Yuka Discobeans of Discobeans, Preston.

5th Movement: Libation

Libation is pouring of drink into the ground or onto an altar for the use of the presiding deity. It is most noticeably an ancient pagan ritual and it can also be seen in Japan. For example, people still overflow sake into a saucer when pouring. Humans drink the sake contained in the cup and the gods receive the overflow. In ancient Europe, the first cup of wine was poured as a libation with which the deity was asked to enter into companionship with the person who was pouring it. Libation emphasises reverence, respect and sharing what one has with others and the originators of all bounty, the immortals. The ceremonial pouring of liquids in addition sanctifies a place and has a powerful psychological effect.

The libation was of thick tea from my mouth to the stage of the tea gathering – the same thick tea I served guests during the 3rd movement.

Credits: Adam Wojcinski (butoh), Sarah Wilmot (improvised soprano), Hannah Baek Wha (shibari)


Biography of Adam Wojcinski