We – the artists Hannie van den Bergh (NL), Yasuyoshi Botan (J), Hirokichi (J) and Jan van den Berg (NL) – got to know each other during Artist In Residency projects in the Netherlands and Japan. During multiple encounters we discussed each other’s artistic and cultural affinities and differences. More and more, we discovered that there is a bigger story to our mutual interest. The story about the exclusive relationship that the Netherlands and Japan maintained for a long time. With the means of art, we want to investigate the current relevance of that story and revitalize it.
Immaterial heritage, identity, globalization and migration
Past and present
Over 250 years – from 1600 to 1859 – the Netherlands and Japan maintained an increasingly exceptional (trade) relationship. During that period, in which Japan was almost hermetically cut off from the outside world, the Netherlands were the only western country with which goods were traded, and knowledge and art was exchanged. As a result both countries developed an increasing interest in each other’s minds and ways of dealing. A dialogue that we want to revitalize in the light of current issues such as immaterial heritage, identity, globalization and migration.
There are few countries that look so different to these issues as Japan and the Netherlands. Yet, the Netherlands — especially in the 18th century — fulfilled a unique role in spreading knowledge about Japanese culture in Europe. And vice versa, Japan organised a genuine Holland studies (Rangaku) for Japanese intellectuals who had a far-reaching interest in Dutch (Western) culture. Anyone in Japan who wanted to acquire knowledge about the Western world had to be able to read Dutch (the “Latin of the East”). What began as a trade relationship thus became an intercultural dialogue. With the means of art, we want to revitalize that dialogue. Its main question being: how do we perceive ourselves and the other, in times of change.