Blog 1

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Blog Quirijn 1

1. Pachinko’s zijn gokhallen, ze zijn oorverdovend en gigantisch groot. Elke stad of dorp heeft wel een of meerdere pachinko’s. In Kyoto gingen ook kinderen naar binnen om te gokken.
2. Mensen zijn vriendelijk, omdat ze je altijd proberen te helpen. Als je bijvoorbeeld ergens heen wilt, en ze weten het ook niet, dan brengen ze je naar een persoon die het misschien wel weet. Japanners zeggen altijd “hallo”, dat is “konichiwa”.
4. De taal vind ik gek, omdat het helemaal anders is als onze taal. In het Frans of Engels kun je nog wel sommige woorden begrijpen, maar met het Japans is dat helemaal niet. Het schrift is ook helemaal anders. Je kunt dus niets lezen. Japanners spreken vaak slecht Engels. Ze draaien de r en de l vaak om in het Engels, bijvoorbeeld “cora”in plaats van “cola”.
5. Ik heb slangen gezien. Er zijn er veel. Ik heb er nu al vier gezien. Eentje lag te slapen bovenop een dam , eentje lag met een dikke buik op de weg te slapen en de andere twee lagen in de bosjes.
6. Een bijzondere gebeurtenis was de Trommelles, een oefening voor een groot evenement. Wij kwamen in een zaaltje waar wel dertig mensen waren. Dat waren kinderen en volwassenen. De kleinste kinderen waren ongeveer zeven jaar oud. Er stonden kleine, gemiddelde en grote trommels. De grote trommels stonden op poten en waren enorm groot en er werd tegenaan geslagen met grote stokken. Zelfs hele jonge kinderen speelden al op deze trom. Iedereen zat voor een grote spiegel, zodat ze het ritme konden volgen. Ze sloegen op trommels en dan staken ze tussendoor de armen omhoog met de stokken in de lucht. Het zag er gedisciplineerd uit.



Friday, July 20th, 2012

Residency Mariëlle van den Bergh/Mels Dees

Our residency in Japan 2012

Some weeks ago we arrived at Kansai Airport in Osaka, for a two month residency in Japan. Our basis will be Shigaraki, a small but very special town in Shiga prefecture and relatively near Kyoto. We are: my husband and fellow artist Mels Dees, our fourteen-year-old son Quirijn and myself, Mariëlle van den Bergh.
A year ago I met the ceramist Nel Bannier (New York/Amsterdam) during my residency at the EKWC (sundaymorning@ekwc) in Den Bosch. She had spent a year at the SCCP, Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park and was full of stories that triggered my curiosity. I wrote an application and a work plan, based on the butting, flowering and dying of flowers. My grandfather from my mother’s side was a flower-bulb farmer in Hillegom. In Holland, this will usually not be regarded with any special interest, but I already had met a Japanese Ikebana Master, who nearly fainted at the idea. Flowers often stood for weeks in my vases at home, long after they had withered, shrivelled up to a mere relic of their original size and texture. The transformation fascinates me and I had decided to focus on this theme in Shigaraki.

Mels had developed a project of his own for Japan, based on his work with manipulated photographs, of which he creates large-scale prints in a graphic studio in Hilversum. He was lucky enough to borrow a good camera from our colleague Paul.
Quirijn would bring loads of books and would “work” on my computer with his new and not so new computer games. Since there is fast internet in the apartment at the SCCP, he can chat online with his chums. That is: sometimes, because there is an eight-hour gap between Tokyo time and the Dutch time zone.

We have planned a couple of spin-offs from this residency. Some of the ceramic work, which I will make, will be on show at Land en Beeld in Asperen and some of Mels’ photo works as well. We will produce an artists’ book on the Japan residency after that, which will be on show in the library at the Van Abbe Museum at the end of the year. This blog will appear on the websites of both Land en Beeld and the Van Abbe Museum.

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park
Quote from one of their publications:
The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park was built and opened in 1990 as a multifunctional complex for creating, studying and exhibiting ceramics, for promoting local industries, for encouraging the creation of new cultures through human, material and information exchange, and for disseminating information from Shiga Prefecture to the world. The park is managed and operated by the Foundation of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.
The Artist-in-Residence program at the park’s Institute of Ceramic Studies fulfils the creative and educational missions of the park.
Since opening in 1992, the Institute of Ceramic Studies has accepted over 700 ceramic artists from 47 countries through application and invitation.
Lengths of residencies vary among artists, but the program provides exciting opportunities for interaction between artists with different styles and nationalities. Another benefit of working at the institute is the excellent equipment available for use to create works not possible at private studios.
The principle of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park’s Artists-in-Residence program is to help push their work to a higher level by taking full advantage of the environment on offer.

When we arrived at the SCCP, at the end of June, there were some Japanese artists and one from Hong-Kong working at the centre, and one Chinese artist was just leaving. Together with us another Japanese artist arrived, together with an artist from India, based in Singapore and a Japanese artist, based in Berlin. The latter flies in and out while making sculptures at Shigaraki. In the next blogs I will tell more about them.

Mariëlle van den Bergh, 20 juli 2012



Friday, July 6th, 2012


The first restaurant menu we were confronted with in Japan did not take hours to decipher, but days. We photographed it, so we could work on it at our leisure:

It took us some serious puzzling and (later) a fast Internet connection to find out what we could order to drink – we would never have had enough time to find something to eat…
But the lady at our first Shigaraki pub was nice enough. Although she did not speak anything but Japanese, she managed to get our meaning and translate our wishes into drinks without the interference of language.
To understand Japanese English (Engrish, as it is usually called) you have to do some reverse engineering. The point is that you have to reprocess their rendering of English through the entire conversion the Japanese themselves have to do to make English or other languages remotely pronounceable. Japanese is a syllable-based language, I think, while we have a different sound system. Many European sounds (like ‘l’ and ‘r’) are more or less meaningless to them, and for a Japanese person it is quite natural to pronounce ‘milk’ as ‘miruku’ – and even spell it like that.
I would have loved to make the translation of the list of drinks above into a competition with prizes, but Japan is expensive enough as it is. So I will print the solution upside down, and all can cheat at their hearts’ content.

Mels Dees, Shigaraki, 06-07-2012



Thursday, June 28th, 2012

God is in the details

Somewhere between Osaka and Kyoto they entered the compartment, barely twenty and obviously in love. They hardly touched each other, but their eyes kept interlocking. However, almost as soon as they sat down, they fell asleep. They spread out unceremoniously, the girl with her fleshy thighs protruding from a short, plaited skirt, the boy snoring with his mouth half open.
After a while the conductor entered the carriage, bowing stiffly and deeply. He checked the passengers’ tickets slowly and carefully, smiling and offering advice. Clearly, this was a man who took his job seriously. His uniform was spotless, his movements quiet and efficient. The fine for a ticketless bum he even wrote out with a pained look on his face, as if he felt personally responsible for the man. After working his way through the sparsely populated train, he arrived at the sleeping couple. However, he left them alone. After bending over their seats for a moment, the conductor left the compartment, bowing deeply again, without waking the couple to ask for their tickets.
Only after I inspected the cotton covers on the headrests did I discover why this conscientious official let the couple go on sleeping. The cotton antimacassars on the seats of some Japanese trains are equipped with a tiny pocket, just large enough to hold the train ticket for the passenger in the seat behind it. A negligible detail, which almost brought tears to my eyes.

Mels Dees, Shigaraki, 28-06-2012



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