IBASHO is delighted to announce the exhibition 'Tea Ceremony and Flower Arrangement', a collaboration initiated by the Belgian artist Max Pinckers with work created by him and Werner Bischof during their travels to Japan.
The image of Japan, saturated by clichés of an impenetrable and technologically advanced island nation with very defined cultural subjects – such as bonsai, sumo, kimono, sushi, fugu fish, Yakuza, salarymen, video games and cosplay – developed with early post-war anthropological literature such as Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946), which was commissioned by the US Office of War Information. A Western viewpoint with such influence it affected Japanese conceptions of themselves after being translated into Japanese in 1948.
Upon Max Pinckers’ arrival in Japan in 2015, none of these preconceived elements seemed to be culturally predominant. This conflicting experience resulted in him deliberately searching for and constructing these cultural stereotypes, creating staged scenes influenced mostly by existing images created by foreigners, such as Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) from 1993 or Werner Bischof’s Japan from 1954. The title of Pinckers’ series, Two Kinds of Memory and Memory Itself, is a reference to a work by American postminimalist artist Richard Tuttle in which an arrangement of strings is placed on a rectangular floor based on Ryoan-ji, a Japanese garden containing fifteen stones placed so that it is impossible to see all of them at once from inside the garden.
The collaboration with Werner Bischof (1916-54) began coincidentally when Pinckers was still associated with Magnum Photos (2015-17). For the 2016 exhibition New Blood at the Magnum Photos Print Room in London, Pinckers randomly placed his work on top of other Magnum Photographers’ prints stored in the archival drawers in the exhibition space, creating spontaneous and unexpected combinations to occur between his work and the Magnum archive. This is where Pinckers met Bischof; through an image of a walking woman in kimono, superimposed on a snowy landscape with men in traditional dress. Considered a fateful introduction, Pinckers decided to take this a step further by exploring Bischof’s archive to create an installation bringing both European representations of Japan together: one dating from the post-war 1950’s US occupation, and the other from today’s contemporary Japan.