Butoh: Granting Art Status to an Indefinable Form
Butoh is a kind of art, but exactly what kind of art is not so easy to see. While traditionally considered a type of dance, there are a number of butoh works that are not readily identifiable as dance works, if in fact they count as dance at all. Through the use of Noël Carroll’s narrative theory of art, I will show how butoh comes to be thought of as art even if it fails to match up exactly with any one pre-existing art form. I will show how the context in which butoh came into being is sufficient for granting butoh art status due to its relation to existing art forms. I compare butoh to its two most similar analogues, dance and performance art, and examine how it resembles and differs from each of them. I also show how the reason categorising butoh as only one kind of art form is problematic due to its being part of a non- Western aesthetic tradition that does not break the world up into such easily separable pieces.