Arti et Amicitiae Rokin 112 Amsterdam
Cos-Play | 21 July - 27 August 2000
After the Dutch and Japanese first exchanged greetings in Deshima in 1600, 'Japonism' became all the rage for the well-to-do in the nineteenth century, Van Gogh studied Hokusai, the Second World War froze Japanese-Western relations and Japanese products frequently ended up in Dutch living rooms, artists of both nations continue to hold each other in high regard.
Despite all links currently forged between the West and Japan, Japan continues to be a hermetically closed, mysterious culture for many artists, while many contemporary Japanese artists view their country with a certain irony. They leave their land, fleeing the canonised art world that offers little space for critical contemporary art, or despatch their work overseas because it can't be shown in Japan. It won't be Kyoto and Tokyo but London and New York that will learn to appreciate the work of Morimura, Yanagi, Araki and Kusama and the criticism of Japanese society it encapsulates.
Marking 400 years of Dutch-Japanese relations, COS-PLAY will be held in Amsterdam's Arti et Amicitiae in July 2000 organised by Christine Sluysmans presenting work by Kyupi Kyupi, Rob Lange, Mayumi Nagasaki, Rob Scholte, Yayoi Kusama, Krystyna Ziach, Yasumasa Morimura, Dirk Jan Jager, Noritoshi Hirakawa, Junko Suzuki, Paul Donker Duyvis, Thom Hoffman, Lisa Holden, Zoot & Genant.
The pivot of the show is the Japanese phenomenon of costume play or dressing up hence the exhibition's title. In its broadest sense, such games extend as far as experimenting with identity. In a society in which industrialisation has become an almost uncanny echo of the Brave New World, where employee's lives are dominated by work at the expense of leisure, where privacy has become a luxury and all energy focuses on productivity, and where creativity has become marginalised, playing with personal identity offers an escape from the uniformity of the mass.
The human body has become the last escape route the only realm in which imagination can run riot. In private, the Japanese can be hedonists undergoing transformations witnessed only by immediate family or the mirror. The fascination with superbeings from Manga cartoons has gradually pervaded the wardrobe resulting in adopting a temporary disguise and explore the freedom of the virtual. In their prerformances and video installations, Kyupi Kyupi also concentrates on this identity game. Morimura shares the passion for dressing up the characters in his photos are spinning on the gender whirligig penises or petticoats either, neither, both? It's a tough choice.
Hirakawa's women have broken free of the closed world society enjoins upon their sex by crossing the threshold of Japanese norms and values. In Japan, where sex went underground many years ago, these women surface among the shadows. Junko Suzuki links the female body to the world of genetic manipulation by taking cells from the body's most intimate regions and subjecting them to technology. Here, it's not just society's norms and values that interfere with the entity of the female body, but the technical ability to cut and paste female physicality into a state of ideal fleshly femininity.
De Hand en de Hals / The Nape of the Neck / Unagi 1997 Colorphoto 150 x 100 cm, Video Still
Where the participating Japanese artists look at their own society as relative outsiders, those living in the Netherlands are literally spectators. Fascination with Japanese identity games is also evident in the work of Paul Donker Duyvis, who shows the viewer Japanese women in traditional dress subtly exploring the borderline of 'decency'. Seen only from the back, she strokes her neck with extreme slowness, defying social codes of conduct, despite appearances. Rob Lange photographed Japanese youth that by all appearances seem to come from another planet the bleach-blonde, super-westernised trendy, exaggerated image is a world away from the media call to conformity. Whereas Lisa Holden explores the world of Geisha's in her series of photographs. Especially since Japonism became part of art history, Western artists have become fascinated by Geisha's as living symbols of a society inaccessible to the Western mind.
Paul Donker Duyvis maakte een prachtige video van een Japanse, die in vertraagde bewegingen speelt met de haren in haar nek. Op de achtergrond klinkt een traditioneel Japans lied. De alledaagsheid van het beeld overstijgt de grens tussen West en Oost.
Paul Donker Duyvis made a beautiful video from the hand of a Japanese woman playing with her hair in slow motion. On the background a traditional song from Okinawa. It surpasses the border between East and West"