Chikako Watanabe / The Third House Owner
In the run-up to the museum’s 20th anniversary in 2019, Huis Marseille is organising a number of exhibitions that focus on its own collection and history. For her new installation, Chikako Watanabe found inspiration in the museum’s characteristic canalside home and its earliest residents. Huis Marseille was built in the 17th century by the French merchant Isaac Focquier, but he did not live for very long in the house he gave the name ‘Marseille’. Many were to come after him. Watanabe has concentrated on the early history of the building, and on its third resident in particular: Wouter Valckenier, who was immortalised in 1684, dressed in a Japonsche rok, or banyan, by the painter Michiel Musscher. For the Japanese artist Watanabe this morning gown, a garment that appears to have been inspired by the Japanese kimono, was enough to make Valckenier the main character in her own artwork. In The Third House Owner Watanabe uses an associative narrative style to link Huis Marseille both to the city after which it is named and also to the Far East, where the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (the United East India Company) did much of its lucrative business. Watanabe’s installation expresses these links in surprising ways; it includes video and sound, soap (savon de Marseille) and sculptures made of porcelain and textiles. Watanabe connects the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea to the murky brown of Dutch canals, while Valckenier himself is brought to life and, musing on the past, he wanders through today’s museum. Watanabe’s inquisitive attitude and Japanese background make her the ideal link between the museum’s presentations of Amsterdam Stuff (archaeological finds unearthed during the excavation of the new Noord-Zuidlijn metro) and the work of a variety of Japanese photographers from Huis Marseille’s own collection, and both of these exhibitions will be on show in Huis Marseille to coincide with Watanabe’s installations.
Chikako Watanabe (1969) was born in Kariya, a city in Aichi prefecture in Japan. During her Master’s degree in the ceramics department of the Kyoto City University of Arts she took part in an AIDS poster project run by Artscape in Kyoto. She noticed that the Dutch posters showed an entirely different style than that of the neighbouring countries, and she became fascinated by the Netherlands and the Dutch. In 1995 Watanabe moved to the Netherlands, and she has lived and worked in Amsterdam ever since. She completed a Master’s degree in the Applied Arts department of the Sandberg Institute, and was given a residency at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten (national academy for the visual arts). Watanabe’s projects involve a very individual kind of research into the local cultures and traditions of communities in different countries. She then uses her findings to create mixed-media installations, which often involve performances and workshops. Her video installation Island Tracing (Schokland–Sakushima) (2012), in which she compares the former island of Schokland (now a part of the drained Noordoostpolder) with the Japanese island of Sakushima, will also be on show in Huis Marseille.
Chikako Watanabe’s book Netting Air. From the Low Land (2018), on the oeuvre she has built up over the last twenty years, will be presented during the opening of the exhibition at Huis Marseille on 9 June 2018. The book, which is designed by Kumi Hiroi and published by HeHe, will be on sale in the Huis Marseille bookshop.