Discover in this report the contents of the special issue of Beaux Arts Magazine entitled Villa Kujoyama - 30 ans de résidences au Japon, available from newsagents and on beauxarts.com.
Interview by Claude Pommereau and Débora Bertol
CP - As you celebrate 100 years of cultural diplomacy in 2022, you are also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Villa Kujoyama. What does this residence represent for the Institut français?
The Institut français, which took over from the AFAA and then CulturesFrance in 2010, is indeed celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. We are unique in that we are dependent on both the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture. We work in close partnership with the entire French cultural network abroad, made up of the cultural services of our embassies, our Instituts français and the Alliances Françaises. For example, Villa Kujoyama comes under the authority of the Institut français of Japan and therefore under the authority of the Embassy and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. It is a major element of the bilateral cultural system between France and Japan. What I find remarkable is that since 2014, after the Villa was restored thanks to a donation from Pierre Bergé, the residency programmes have been reimagined with a strong anchoring in Japan. The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation's decision to join us at that point was also because the Villa is located in Kyoto, a city that embodies the tradition of crafts in Japan.
CP - Have the pandemic and restrictions on movement hampered life at Villa Kujoyama in recent years?
We managed to keep Villa Kujoyama open, with the exception of just three months in the summer of 2021 and between January and March 2022. Since it was very complicated to bring in French residents, we took the opportunity to host more Japanese artists than usual. However, we did not cancel any residencies. Of course, many postponements had to be made, which is why, this year, we did not make any calls for applications. On the other hand, as soon as we were able to reopen the Villa, we were the only foreign residence to welcome foreign residents on Japanese soil.
DB - The duration of residencies is four to six months. This seems relatively short to us...
For each residency programme we determine a duration, notably according to the working methods of the different artistic disciplines that we host. Some artists will say that six months is too short, others that it is too long, because they have a base in France, a family, professional commitments, etc. A duration of four to six months is, in the end, a good compromise. For the visual arts, adopting a long period is rarely a problem, whereas the performing arts, music, dance and theatre in general often require shorter periods. Between 15 to 20 artists are constantly in residence at Villa Kujoyama. Some come as solo artists, others in pairs and still others in duos with a Japanese artist with whom they have applied. We are also developing a one-month residency programme for artists who have won the Liliane Bettencourt Prize pour l'Intelligence de la Main®.
CP - I imagine that residents have prepared a programme, planned contacts with Japanese people?
Let's not forget that the candidates are selected according to their project. There are about 300 applicants for a selection of 15 to 20 artists. Some projects are already very advanced, but the vast majority of artists apply to Villa Kujoyama to be supported in a pure research phase. They know that we will support them for a further five years after their residency. The Villa Kujoyama offers the artist the opportunity to deepen his or her reflection and inspiration. The artist must be able to feed off what they discover in Japan, a country where one must take one's time. This rhythm is part of the culture. Collaborations often take place over a long period of time, which makes them all the more fruitful for both parties.
CP - You mention support for your residents. How does this work?
We closely follow the development of their project. We keep a constant link with them because, naturally, the projects are in perpetual evolution. We can also envisage, with him or her, a return residency in the framework of another programme. This long-term support, which we call post-residency, allows the artists to pursue a project initiated during their stay at Villa Kujoyama. Indeed we work in partnership, on a multi-year basis, with institutions such as the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, the Abbaye de Maubuisson and the Maison de la Culture du Japon in Paris, to allow artists, when the work they initiated at Villa Kujoyama takes shape, to exhibit it and show it to the public. We set up different options, in connection with a consultant, Sumiko Oé-Gottini, who knows France and Japan and their respective art scenes very well. Experts within the Institute also form a very valuable relay and work with us to support these artists at different stages of their project.
CP - When you look back over the last few years, has a dominant discipline emerged?
The visual arts represent about a quarter of the residents; the same percentage for the performing arts, music, dance, theatre, and about 14% for crafts, a discipline that is very well suited to Japan. Multidisciplinarity is an essential feature of Villa Kujoyama, one that is appreciated by the artists, who regularly develop projects with fellow residents. Bonds are forged in all the moments of conviviality and exchange that the long duration and the simultaneous hosting of multiple artists allows. The residency is therefore a moment of creative exchange within the Villa, but it is also an opportunity to be enriched by exchanges with people met outside.
Once the artist is selected - an artist, in a very broad sense, since it can be culinary art, cinema, crafts, in a multi-disciplinary tradition - we carry out preparatory work with the future resident, so that each has time to specify his or her project, and so that their first encounters are made as soon as they arrive in Kyoto. This programme is also an opportunity for Japanese professionals, with whom collaborations can be one-off or more regular, to work for several months at a time with their French counterparts.
The support of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation has enabled us to put a strong spotlight on arts and crafts. The Foundation knows some of the residents who come to the Villa very well. For us, it is both a financial partner, of course, but also a conceptual partner, with an exceptional knowledge of these crafts. The links between the crafts and other disciplines - design, visual arts, fine arts - are very close. The designer Nicolas Pinon, for example, who is staying at Villa Kujoyama this year, received the Liliane Bettencourt Prize pour l'Intelligence de la Main®. His stay in Japan will allow him to continue his exploration of lacquer and its applications in design.
CP - You also finance and advise on residences throughout the world. How does this work?
Indeed, our embassies, the Instituts français and the Alliances Françaises often wish to create residency programmes, and this trend is constantly growing. To support them, the Institut français created the Fabrique des Résidences programme in 2018. We support them in terms of expertise, day-to-day monitoring and, regularly, we invite them to Paris for group training sessions. When I myself was director of the Institut français of Vietnam, we created the Villa Saigon, an artists' residence, whose concept was self-evident. The first resident was Caroline Guiela Nguyen, the Algerian-Vietnamese director, who had a play about Vietnam in mind. She needed a time to meet Vietnamese people, to research her project and to find actors. Thus the Institut français granted its support for the creation of this Villa and so Caroline Guiela Nguyen was able to create her play at the Avignon Festival. Today, the Villa Saigon residence continues to welcome new artists. I think that the technical expertise and advice provided to our colleagues around the world offers huge added value. We accompany artists to the United States, Senegal, Morocco, Japan, which allows them to exchange with their peers and return enriched. Conversely, in the field, it allows the inhabitants of these countries to get to know a contemporary French artist. It is also with these creators, these thinkers of today and tomorrow, that we manage to enrich bilateral relations.
BF - Do you take into account local specificities when supporting artists abroad?
Of course, we develop our artist residency policy, in particular, according to the host context, but our purpose is broader: we support emerging or already recognised artists who need support to be more visible internationally. This is what we are working on, and today, in a France of diversity, it is this French plurality that we wish to see in dialogue abroad.
CP - What role do you envisage for the Institut français in years to come?
For a long time, we thought that our model was exemplary and that our values could suit everyone. Today, this model is being questioned in several countries. And it is important, through cultural exchanges in the broadest sense, to get others to know us better, to know our values. We are proud to be a culturally open country, we support artists, we promote creators and, through them, much more than a person or a project, we promote a certain vision of society, freedom of expression and creation, of circulation of works and ideas. It is a culture of dialogue and exchange that we wish to promote.
CP - Can residencies still exist at a time when videoconferencing is taking its toll?
Good question: for a residency to exist, do we still have to travel there? Some people prefer to stay at home, not to fly, to get in touch with others through the digital medium, the screen...
Personally, I think that this will only last for a certain time. Everyone can say to themselves, as during Covid, "I can do it, I learned to do it online". It's very practical, but I find it hard to believe that it can totally replace travelling, meeting other people. We are beings of flesh, of fluids, of waves, and if we deny that, we also deny our human nature. This being the case, I have placed the issue of environmental responsibility and the reasoned decarbonisation of our actions at the heart of my establishment project for the Institut français. We will therefore ensure that all of our residency programmes, both inside and outside the walls, integrate these challenges that we face.
Paul Claudel, who was ambassador to Japan, was astonished that a capital city could be built on a boiler cover. The elegant archipelago is permeated by telluric forces and bubbles in its subsoil. One of the beneficial aspects of this disturbing turmoil is the hot springs that its inhabitants enjoy. The residents of Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto are well aware of the paradox that Japan is simultaneously a land of sweetness and violence. Better still, they find in this chaos hidden beneath the veneer of a captivating and magnificent civilisation the fuel for their work. Designers, filmmakers, video-makers, painters, perfumers or architects, all find themselves infused in a climate where clouds alternate with snowfalls. The Villa is a poem that gives rhythm to the seasons.
Located on Mount Higashi, not far from the sublime Zen temples of Kyoto, the Villa stretches out in its modernist architecture, designed thirty years ago by Katō Kunio. More than a creation, the inauguration of this Villa in 1992 was a renaissance.
It was in 1926, during his term as French ambassador to Japan, that Paul Claudel acted to found the Société de rapprochement intellectuel franco-japonais, which gave rise to the Institut franco-japonais du Kansai. The aim of this institution was to bring Japanese and French cultures closer together, to anchor "French content in a Japanese container". Inaugurated on November 5, 1927, the Institute was transferred in 1936 to premises located near Kyoto University. Over the years, the building on Mount Higashi fell into disrepair. In 1986, the Société de rapprochement intellectuel franco-japonais, still faithful to the ideas of Paul Claudel and Inabata Katsutarō, decided to build a new Centre franco-japonais pour les échanges et la création, and on November 5, 1992, the Villa Kujoyama as we know it today was inaugurated, thus renewing its vocation as a civilisational link. In 2013, the Villa had to close its doors for renovation. The work was carried out with the support of Pierre Bergé and the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation. It reopened in 2014.
An inspiring bubble in the heights of Kyoto
Strictly speaking, this Villa, a belvedere over the city, is not an icon. It is a set of functional concrete buildings. Built into the slope of Mount Higashi, with its many staircases, the Villa connects the studios to each other through its common spaces, which are a real asset to the building because they are conducive to informal exchanges. The six duplex studio apartments of 64 sq.m, lined up along the hillside, all have their windows open onto the mountain and its maple and cedar forests. The collective spaces and balconies look out onto the city. The architecture of the complex is designed to encourage concentration, withdrawal, but also a certain fraternity in the exchanges between the residents, as well as between the residents and their local contacts. Although a stay at the Villa does not entail any creative obligation, productions and restitutions are common. The location, a real incubator of the imagination, encourages inspiration.
Within the Institut français in Paris, a dedicated team supports the residents before their departure and at the end of their residency. On site, a French and Japanese team of five people manage daily life, work alongside the artists and are the first gateway to Japanese culture. They accompany the residents, guide them in their research, and act as translators, even if it is true that the artists often understand each other through their gestures and their creations. The teams on site are particularly attentive to finding Japanese interlocutors ready to dialogue with the residents, in a mutual contribution of research, knowledge, inspiration and creation. Artists, cultural professionals, craftsmen, research laboratories, prospectors, industrialists and researchers are all called upon. Since its opening in 1992, more than 400 residents have stayed at the Villa. Some of the oldest beneficiaries of this residency have become very famous, such as Ange Leccia, Dominique Gonzalez-Fœrster and later Éric Baudelaire, Céline Wright, Pierre Charpin, Olivia Rosenthal, Jean-Luc Vilmouth, Catherine Meurisse, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Gisèle Vienne, Rithy Panh and many others. At each session, the call for applications is open to all disciplines and more than 300 applications are received. It is possible to apply alone, but also in pairs, including pairs with a Japanese artist. On site, residents receive a monthly allowance of 2,100 euros for solo artists and 1,600 euros per artist when they are in a duo. It is also possible to apply as a family. The institution then offers an additional grant to allow the residents to live outside the Villa while keeping the studio to work in.
The applications are examined by external figures and experts from the Institut français, who screen them during the pre-selection phases. Then the fifty or so applicants are received and auditioned by a final jury.
Bridging distances to bring out the unsuspected
Intended to stay for four to six months at the Villa, the laureates are thus 12 to 15 in number each year. Under the impetus of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, crafts, of which Japan and its "living treasures" is a reservoir, have made their entry among the projects supported and selected for residencies. We have seen plumbers, goldsmiths, a perfumer... The list of disciplines now covered by Villa Kujoyama is impressive: architecture, street arts (circus, puppetry), digital creation, fine arts, comics, cinema, art criticism and curating, dance, performance, design, graphics, culinary arts, literature, crafts, fashion, music, photography, theatre, etc. To apply, you must be French or have lived in France for at least five years, which explains the variety of profiles selected, as many foreign artists are eligible for this residency. It is not uncommon for Villa Kujoyama residents to have previously completed residencies at the Villa Médicis or the Casa de Velázquez. An artist's career is often punctuated by stays in residencies. The average age of residents is 40.
On their return, once their stay in Japan is over, former residents benefit from a post-residency support phase lasting five years. This allows them to assess the impact of this experience on the development of their work. Support in terms of dissemination is also provided. An alumni network allows each student to keep in touch with others who have benefited from a similar opportunity. A residency at the Villa Albertine in the United States may also be awarded to former arts and crafts residents.
For all of them, both initiators and beneficiaries of this exchange programme, the important thing remains the shift in perspective that Japan elicits in those who stay there. The strength of the location allows each person to detach themselves from reality and plunge into another universe, imperceptible yet, perhaps already there, nestled in the artist's subconscious. In bringing together the distant, the unsuspected emerges.
A Villa deeply rooted in Japan
Jordane de Faÿ
Founded in 1992 on the foundations of the first Centre culturel franco-japonais created in 1926, Villa Kujoyama was born under the aegis of intercultural understanding. It is actively involved in strengthening the links between the French arts landscape and local and international stakeholders. The multiplication of artists' residency programmes throughout the world bears witness to this: these arrangements are one of the best tools for understanding and long-term cooperation between two countries. "These places make it possible to establish strong and lasting links between artistic scenes, with much less financial burden than the organisation of large-scale heritage exhibitions," notes Charlotte Fouchet Ishii, in charge of Villa Kujoyama from 2017 to 2021. A pivotal period during which the residence underwent many changes following its reopening in 2014.
Strengthened bilateral relations
With an ad hoc mechanism, Franco-Japanese duos are now an integral part of the Villa and, although they represent only 5% of residents, the number of applications in pairs has increased over the years. Like the writer Ryōko Sekiguchi and the designer Felipe Ribon, they are often creators who know each other from more or less distant places, and for whom the residency offers a means of deepening the link. The year 2014 also marked the arrival of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation as the main sponsor, and thus the opening of the residencies to arts and crafts, which, like the duos, are a springboard for the promotion of French and Japanese know-how, which inform each other. "Until it was reopened, the Villa was something of a French enclave. Today, it maintains relations with more than 6,000 arts professionals in Japan," says the former director. This network, which is beneficial to the visibility of the residents - whose projects are always linked to the territory and/or Japanese culture - is also reflected in partnerships with local cultural institutions. In recent years, Villa Kujoyama has co-organised a number of events with the Kyoto Art Center, the Nuit Blanche in Kyoto, the Sasakawa Foundation, the Top (Tokyo Museum of Photography), Digital Choc (Tokyo Digital Arts Festival) and Le Mois de la France in Yokohama. These events, as well as the meetings, readings and exhibitions organised throughout the year at Villa Kujoyama, attract a largely Japanese audience. At the same time, the Villa has forged links with various Japanese universities and art schools, who open the doors of their workshops, ceramic kilns, 3D printing studios, darkrooms, etc. to the residents.
From a French enclave to an international crossroads
All of these links also enable Villa Kujoyama artists to be hosted in one of the many Japanese artists' residences when they travel to the archipelago. Since 2014, Villa Kujoyama has been hosting Japanese artists visiting Kyoto. During the Covid pandemic, all of the Villa's rooms and spaces were made available to around 50 Japanese artists, whose production was struggling with closed borders and lost studios. "This initiative has led to a new recognition in Japan as a place for dialogue," explains Charlotte Fouchet Ishii. This view is shared by editor and producer Tetsuya Ozaki, who runs the magazines Real Tokyo and Real Kyoto, which provide information on cultural life. Committed to bringing French intellectuals to the attention of the Japanese public, he notes that "since the pandemic, Villa Kujoyama has experienced a revival. The number of events and intercultural exchanges organised within its walls has multiplied, which has enabled it to assert its presence and recognition among local stakeholders.
The post-residency programme, which was launched eight years ago, is a long-term project. From now on, support is offered to residents before and after the period in Kyoto, with the preparation of projects starting well before departure, during meetings with the Villa Kujoyama team and an expert in charge of continuing this support after their return to France. Before the residency, the Villa team identifies the Japanese people and institutions that the French artist could benefit from meeting. After the fact, the objective is to give visibility to the research initiated during the residency. The resonance of the residency period on artistic production can be felt many years later," says Samson Sylvain, cultural attaché at the Institut français of Japan. We regularly welcome projects that are long-term or that extend into the field. The Villa has thus become a rallying point, both in space and in time, for former and current residents, but also for their Japanese peers. "
A role that the Villa takes seriously: the artistic residence has joined forces with its German counterpart - Villa Kamogawa, founded in 2011 by the Goethe-Institut on the model of Villa Kujoyama - and the cultural institutions of the Cervantes Institute and the Wallonia-Brussels Delegation to create a EUNIC cluster for the Kansai region. Under the auspices of the European Union, the "European Union National Institutes for Culture" programme federates the various European organisations of a city or region into 136 clusters worldwide outside the EU in order to strengthen their collaboration. The Kyoto cluster promises to consolidate the channels of exchange between the international institutions present locally, particularly in terms of artist mobility, but also to further enrich support for their projects. This will strengthen the Villa's visibility and establish its role as a place of effective cultural diplomacy.
Thirty years after its opening, what are the major challenges facing the Villa?
This anniversary, which coincides with my arrival at the Villa, is a time for reflection. In the light of contemporary debates (inclusion, equality, ecology, etc.) and in a context of increasing numbers of private and public residences, we must re-examine its model and reaffirm its specific characteristics. We need to revalue the Villa as a place of research, a time of freedom where wandering is precisely the destination, to recall the richness of the disciplines that the residents represent and the tailor-made support they have at their disposal.
How do you intend to develop the residency programme?
The Villa is above all a place dedicated to artists. The idea is to offer them an immersion in Japanese culture, its way of life and its creative techniques. We will continue to develop meetings between the residents and their local counterparts, without compartmentalisation of disciplines. We will also offer Japanese language courses, because the way the language is constructed offers many keys to understanding the thinking of the country. The Japanese word komorebi means "sunlight filtering through the trees". This is also what artists are looking for: another way of being in the world and approaching reality. Furthermore, I would like to develop exchanges between new and former residents, with a system of mentoring or tutoring.
What is the keyword for your next three years in office?
The Villa must remain a place of research. While it is not easy to give the public an account of a work in progress, we must try to share what is happening inside with the outside world. Partnerships with French and foreign cultural institutions are fundamental. In post-residency events and meetings, the artists' research work during their time at the Villa is highlighted as a crucial first step, before the implementation of the projects takes place later. The notion of sharing must also be applied to the local field. The Villa is well known to professionals, but has yet to be discovered by a less informed public. Opening the Villa to the general public on a monthly basis could be a way of establishing a regular link with the inhabitants of Kyoto. Sharing the residents' projects should also be done with the development of social networks and a new website to increase their visibility.
Jordane de Faÿ
After three years of pandemic that disrupted its operation, Villa Kujoyama is finally returning to its usual rhythm with a full complement of residents. This year, 15 laureates in the fields of arts and crafts, music and dance, among others, have come to Kyoto to begin their research. Grateful for the opportunity, eager to learn and discover, the artists are enjoying every minute of this exceptional residency, a Japanese experience they will never forget.
Perched on the slopes of Mount Higashi, east of Kyoto, Villa Kujoyama is imposing, impressive and also a little intimidating. In the middle of August, the semi - Japanese cicadas - roar. The overwhelming heat, punctuated by brief showers that soak you to the skin, plunges the belvedere into a tropical environment. The stone steps leading up to the Villa are lined with small wooden houses. But very soon the cobblestones become a path, once you cross the bridge over the Lake Biwa canal. Is the path, increasingly encroached by vegetation, a shift from reality to dream? In any case, nature seems to be reclaiming its rights. You might come across monkeys, deer and even wild boars, locals warn. The Villa has to be earned. And the heat of the Kyoto summer nourishes this mysterious, timeless atmosphere, which has inspired the creative energy of the residents of Villa Kujoyama for thirty years now.
Their names are Céline Wright, Karin Schlageter, Yūko Ōshima, Anne-Sophie Turion, Éric Minh Cuong Castaing. Working in craft, art criticism, music and dance, they are among the 15 residents at Villa Kujoyama during 2022. In just a few decades, Villa Kujoyama, or VK to its friends, has become one of the most prestigious artistic residences that France administers abroad, in coordination with the Institut français - the cultural arm of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture. So many artists dream of staying there, and on this evening, on the terrace overlooking a forest of maple and cedar trees, the residents meet over a glass of umeshu (plum liqueur), while admiring a breathtaking panorama of the ancient capital of Japan. One has just arrived at her studio and is still suffering from jet lag, the other, with a heavy heart, is on her way out. But they are all happy, grateful and exhilarated by the chance they have been given to work here.
Indeed, over several weeks or months, it is with a certain joy that the residents will share this communal life set to the rhythm of the comings and goings of everyone. The interior of the Villa is just as impressive as the exterior. Its high ceilings continue to give it the appearance of an impregnable fortress. The communal areas, such as the entrance hall and the terrace, face the city, while the residents' studios, which serve as their studio and accommodation, face the mountain, adding to the sense of seclusion. During their stay, residents are responsible for the upkeep of their space and have access to a communal kitchen that allows impromptu meetings and facilitates exchanges. Solitude and concentration mix comfortably with moments of conviviality.
A fascination with Japanese culture
Villa Kujoyama, the promise of an introspective and creative retreat, one that "makes it easier to organise your thoughts," explains Karin Schlageter, an award-winning art critic. On the walls of her high-ceilinged studio, the 34-year-old curator has pinned a multitude of notes. Exhibitions not to be missed, book references, notes and haikus that she writes every day. Understanding, analysing and deciphering this country where she has been living for six months remains a challenge for her as she "feels she is still in a phase of discovery". Like many thirty-somethings, Karin fell into Japanese pop culture through manga and anime. It was only much later, during her studies, that she "grasped the spirituality that emanates from the archipelago". During a first trip in 2014, she came across a different vision of contemporary art and discovered working with natural light. "In Europe, we use electricity. In Japan, as an admirer of the art of ikebana, I realised how key the whole setting around the work is: the infinite attention to detail, nothing is left to chance. Natural light, which changes throughout the day, is also essential: it fascinated me and changed my vision of lighting. "
A first encounter with Japan offered her, at the time, "few answers and so many new questions". Pandora's box had been opened. Finding a way back became essential. Happy to be able to dig deeper thanks to the Villa, the cultural and linguistic barrier continues to prevent her and frustrates her: "I am still on the threshold of the encounter," she says. It's difficult because the social link is essential in my job, and I'm looking above all to get to know a person, before I can appreciate their artistic work. " But she tempers her impatience, aware of the privileged context in which the Villa allows her to develop: "The teams help us to overcome so many barriers. "
Céline Wright is just as eager to learn. As a designer of washi paper lights and an arts and crafts award winner, she wants to explore, touch and feel everything. From Echizen, in the Fukui prefecture, to Naoshima, in the Inland Sea, she travels to meet craftsmen who put unique materials in her hands: "I need to feel the pulp of the paper on my fingers. " For this strong woman, who heads a company with ten employees that works with the world's greatest hotels, Villa Kujoyama is "a unique opportunity to invent and experiment". "I've had my head in the sand for twenty-five years. What a joy to be able to devote myself to research! This hermetic life, in this almost monastic setting, is an adventure in itself. "A reflection around the subject, constantly shaken up by encounters and discoveries. With pleasure, she lets herself be cajoled and surprised. "I have always believed in the beauty of art in everyday life," she smiles. A Japanese vision of handicrafts which is not surprising for Céline, who is steeped in Japan, having lived in Tokyo from the age of 8 to 13: "I remember the bowls of udon (thick wheat noodles) I ate with my brother. But also bentos: at that time, the containers were made of wood, with incredible packaging. "When she created her first cocoon-shaped light fixture, the flagship piece of her Montreuil-based studio, she designed it in washi paper. "I always wanted to come back to Japan, but I needed a reason, a project. The Villa offered me this opportunity. "
On this hot summer afternoon, Céline has an appointment with Sadaharu Inoue, a craftsman specialising in bamboo, who is in charge of a century-old family business of which he is the heir. With a view to an installation at the Kyocera Museum, Céline is looking to construct a cocoon over four metres long: bamboo might offer the solution. In rough but effective English, these two exceptional artisans ask each other questions, make numerous sketches, make large gestures and understand each other very well. The undertaking in creating such an object is a challenge," admits Sadaharu Inoue. We're getting out of our comfort zone, but we can do it. " Confident, Céline and Sadaharu will meet again a few weeks later in the Villa's auditorium for the first tests. On the day of the installation, as part of the Nuit Blanche de Kyoto, "a performance will be held with Hiroshi Ueta, a calligrapher with whom I have previously worked in Paris," explains Céline. The two artists will combine their skills: ink and a gigantic paper structure. Hiroshi Ueta, who has been practising calligraphy since the age of five, likes to try out new media and wants to break out of the box: he will draw his words in 3D. The theme is already set: powerful messages about the environment and the climate will be projected. "We want to surprise and challenge. "
The opportunity to collaborate with local craftspeople offers a rich source of possibilities. Under the impetus of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, the Villa's main sponsor since 2014, handicrafts and arts and crafts now feature among residency disciplines. Mona Oren, winner of the Liliane Bettencourt Prize pour l'intelligence de la Main®, was invited to share in the daily life of residents for a month. As part of her research into warosokucandles, the artist, who specialises in working with wax, discovered an entirely plant based version of her favourite material, produced from haze, a fruit that grows only in southern Japan. "I discovered a treasure," she enthuses. During a presentation to her Japanese colleagues, Mona was inspired to make her tulips from a mixture of her own synthetic wax and haze wax. "I wish I could stay," says Mona. I still have so much to discover. At the Villa, we are in a bubble. "
An impression that particularly echoes the research subject of Anne-Sophie Turion and Éric Minh Cuong Castaing, dance residents, who have chosen to tackle a social issue that affects Japan (but not only): the reclusion of oneself. In Japan, these people are called hikikomori. Anne-Sophie and Eric worked with an association for the reintegration of recluses who no longer leave their homes, where Nicolas Tajan, a mental health researcher and author of Génération hikikomori, published by L'Harmattan, works. "Our aim is to try to define the space of intimacy for these people who live in confinement," explains Anne-Sophie. In the course of this project, the two artists have made some exceptional encounters. Shizuka, in particular, an ex-hikikomori," says Eric. She is hypersensitive and speaks with no filter. She told us about going out at night on her bike (to avoid running into people) and the rain that sometimes rolled down her cheeks. There was a lot of poetry in the way she related this anecdote. She has an actor's touch. " For Anne-Sophie and Éric, it is certain that the project will continue beyond the period of residency.
Going back... or not
Ten years after his residency, Alexandre Maubert still lives in Kyoto. He remembers with emotion his few months at the Villa: it is 2012, he was a resident in digital arts. The moments of joy, doubt and, above all, the support of the other residents "who have become friends for life". Attending the same year as the author Éric Faye, Alexandre remembers their collaboration: "He wrote a text, I composed the music. " Synergies are born and bridges are formed between artistic disciplines. Once he left the Villa, Alexandre decided to stay. "He had to manage on his own. " At the foot of the mountain, he has the determination to climb it. "In Japan, you have to accept to become a blank page again. Our past experiences no longer count: we have to start from scratch." He adds: "When you're down, you have to get back up. " His fighting spirit, the right meetings at the right time, and the humility he shows in his approach will do the rest. A multidisciplinary artist, Alexandre Maubert now has his own workshop and studio in Kyoto, where he is considered a local artist, the "recognition" he dreamed of. He sculpts, creates objects, works with photography, and is also involved in music. This autumn, he is releasing his first electro album: he has chosen to call it Made in Kyoto. Of course.
Under the impetus of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation
The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation's interest in the Villa Kujoyama was not self-evident. However, the French patron of the arts, committed to promoting the influence of the arts and crafts for twenty years, has been supporting the artistic residence, established in Kyoto in 1992, since 2014. The programme includes funding for the second phase of the renovation work undertaken by the Institut français, support for operating costs and cultural activities. This massive support is only the visible part of their patronage. Hedwige Gronier, head of cultural sponsorship at the Foundation, recalls: "What we wanted to do was to open the Villa to the arts and crafts by introducing a new residency programme. Until then, only artists, musicians, writers, choreographers, etc. were welcomed. " Olivier Brault, the Foundation's general director, continues: "The Villa Kujoyama had become a place of retreat. It had to be opened up to the Tokyo scene, the capital of the applied arts. Over the years, this territory has become a space for intermediation between creators and traditional Japanese know-how. During her residency in 2015, Aurore Thibout revisited chirimen silk, a traditional weaving technique used for over a thousand years in Kyōtango, north of Kyoto. "I interpreted a fabric of woven wood and silk, a technical innovation from Tamiya Raden [a local workshop specialising in raden weaving, with shell inlay, ed.]," she explains. I created a shell piece for the ritual dedicated to the celebration of flowers, ikebana, in order to evoke what crosses us, what makes us up from the plant and animal world. "
In eight years, the Villa has been transformed into a place where cutting-edge artistic and craft practices meet, a place of mutual cultural discovery. A graduate of the École supérieure des arts décoratifs de Strasbourg, Marion Delarue went to study hair ornaments at the Kushi-Kanzashi museum in 2019, which houses unique collections in this field. "Thanks to a translator, I was able to talk to the curator for a whole day, explore the collections, and learn about the techniques of woodworking with a master who produces Noh masks, but also bone, jade, shell and horse hoof," she recalls. "These two cultures have chosen to love and admire each other.
The Franco-Japanese cultural relationship is magical because we are fundamentally different," says Olivier Brault. The Foundation has turned this difference into a strength by providing support to the artisans beforehand. With the help of two dedicated representatives, one in France and the other in Japan, the time between the resident's selection and the actual start of the residency is used to identify and contact the most suited Japanese contacts for each craftsperson. This is how the wood gilder Manuela Paul-Cavallier, the first resident in crafts in 2014, obtained an appointment with the gilders of the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto the day after her arrival.
This support continues after the residency, a trademark of the Foundation's entire sponsorship policy. Establishing contacts before arrival allows the residency to be more efficient so as to benefit from each day on site," explains Hedwige Gronier. This dimension of research, of initiation to other skills, explains why we do not demand results. Faced with the residents' desire to produce a work of art, we ended up adding financial support for this purpose on their return to France. " Jeweller Karl Mazlo used the Damascus steel forging techniques he learned during his residency in 2016 in the piece Black Garden, winner of the Liliane Bettencourt Prize pour l’Intelligence de la Main® in 2021. "Encountering different techniques, even if they don't all lead to concrete things immediately, allows you to think differently," the artist acknowledges. The keystone of success, the revaluation of the long term, has enabled Villa Kujoyama to inscribe arts and crafts as an artistic practice abroad.
Why did you choose to carry out your mission of supporting arts and crafts through a Japanese journey?
We wanted to combat the lack of awareness of our skills in France. Other countries were celebrating them more than we were! Recognition therefore had to be achieved through an international influence. This idea took shape during a trip to Japan, when we were working on the policy of defending Japanese know-how as a possible source of inspiration for France. We met with the Institut français' team in charge of Villa Kujoyama. Following its renovation, the Villa needed to relaunch its residency programme. The opportunity was there.
It was formerly an exclusively artistic residency. Why did you bring in craftspeople?
By opening up the residency, we intended to blur the hierarchy of disciplines, to acknowledge that craftspeople can be artists. As such, they have a creative practice that deserves to be eligible for an arts residency. The result was so satisfying that we have since replicated the experience at the Villa Medici in Rome and the Villa Albertine in New York.
Unlike the usual artistic residencies, the artisans' apprenticeship is free from any production requirements. Why is that?
Freedom and trust are the key words of a successful residency. An artist is fundamentally a researcher. The more freedom a researcher is given, the more fruitful his or her work will be, and the more numerous and important the discoveries. This is particularly true in the medical field, in which the Foundation is also involved. The same principle applies to art. Not imposing a result means encouraging the possible. Not one resident since 2014 has returned unaffected from his or her residence in Kyoto. This is a different moment that invites us to break away from the pursuit of a set path.
Dancers, visual artists, architects, authors, designers... All selected for a residency at Villa Kujoyama, they tell us what this unique experience was like for them. Including, for some, during the recent pandemic. Their encounters, their daily work, the change of scenery in Japan, the impact on their careers... Vibrant testimonies of singular stays.
Freeing oneself from a logic of profitability
Was it a shock to arrive at Villa Kujoyama in the midst of a pandemic? How did you come to terms with such a unique living and working environment?
Natacha Poutoux - With Sacha Hourcade, we had created our design studio three years before our residency. Having spent an extended period looking for clients and projects, it was the right time for us to leave, to immerse ourselves in research and free ourselves from the need for profitability. We arrived in a particular context: after finding out three days before that we were really going, there were fourteen of us in the Villa for five days, each in our own studio. We couldn't see anyone... It's a place that invites meditation, concentration. We had very intense work periods, but we also spent a lot of time outside the Villa meeting companies and craftsmen.
Sacha Hourcade - It's true, we had the impression of being literally teleported to Japan, without really being there.
Bady Dalloul – In my case, I arrived there one day before Japan closed its borders, on 1 January 2021. I was not expected: the Villa Kujoyama team had almost given up hope of welcoming new residents! I was on my own, I couldn't go out. I stayed in my studio, but the conditions were exceptional: I had a small garden and the studios are very comfortable. It was perfect because I was writing a film (Ahmad le Japonais, 2021), which I then directed: this period of calm allowed me to concentrate on what I was there for. Plus, I had the team there just for me!
What was your daily routine like?
Sacha Hourcade - I got up early in the morning, I took time to ritualise things, to accept them...
Natacha Poutoux - Sacha was already Japanese (laughs)! Personally, I found a form of serenity in relation to my way of working; I am a very impatient person, it forced me to take time. With the time difference, we were less distracted by social networks, messages... Back in France, I tried to take more time in my daily life. This is essential to remain creative.
Bady Dalloul - I had already been to Japan several times for artistic projects, so I knew what to expect. But this time, there were no tourists in Kyoto, it was exceptional. I could go to the temples that were completely deserted... And I didn't feel that I was affected by the health situation. On the contrary, I feel that I met quite a few people thanks to the recommendations of the Villa Kujoyama team, people who were keen to talk despite the anxiety-inducing context.
"We shot four films in six months! "
What did you know about Japan before coming to Villa Kujoyama? What did you expect from this residency?
Louise Lemoine (in duo with Ila Bêka) - We had already shot a film in Japan about the architect Ryūe Nishizawa of the Sanaa agency (Moriyama-San, 2016), and that's why we applied: we had ideas to develop. Our work is based on an anthropological and cultural approach, and questions our relationship to space, whether urban or architectural. Our practice is very nomadic, because we assimilate practices, uses and ways of living in space in different countries.
What influence has the country, its environment and its inhabitants had on your work and your way of thinking?
Louise Lemoine - First of all, it must be said that it was a very prolific period for us: we shot four films in six months! Two of them are part of the Homo Urbanus travelling film project, a set of eleven one-hour films developed in different cities around the world, which asks the question: how do we experience public space from one culture to another? What are the silent rules that govern our bodies? In Japan, we were impressed by the discipline of hygiene and cleanliness. Everyone cleans up in front of their homes, in front of their shops... The street is a space that is cared for collectively, as if it were an extension of the house. You see people walking around every morning with a little plastic bag picking up cigarette butts!
What were your most pleasant surprises?
Louise Lemoine - We were always in the process of meeting people. So we had surprises, yes, constantly, but also difficulties; we realised the cultural abyss between our two cultures. The cultural codes are so different in the relationship with others... The Japanese suggest more than they say: we spent six months trying to hear what was being suggested. It was exciting and complex at the same time.
Forgetting Parisian and Western roots
What did working at Villa Kujoyama mean to you?
Emmanuelle Huynh - As a dancer-choreographer, I wanted to understand the processes involved in making ikebana, carpentry and kaisekicooking. I envisaged a choreographic piece where another art form would be visible. This resulted in Shinbai, le vol de l’âme in 2009, with the ikebana master Seiho Okudaira. I envisaged the show as a giant ikebana the size of a theatre stage, whose elements are, of course, the vase, the flowers and the plants, but also Seiho Okudaira's body, my own body and objects. The role of the ikebana assistant was a powerful dramatic resource.
Élodie Royer - As an exhibition curator, I carried out research on Japanese collective and performance art practices that emerged after the war, in collaboration with Yoann Gourmel, who is also a curator. It was also the year of the triple disaster of Fukushima, which considerably changed my research experience, and more widely my curatorial practice. I have since continued to work on the way the disaster has transformed the Japanese art scene, which is more engaged in political and ecological questioning. I am now conducting curatorial and doctoral work at the intersection of art, ecofeminism and the memory of disasters in Japanese contemporary art history.
José Lévy - When I was in Kyoto, I travelled a lot. I completely forgot my Parisian and Western roots, I didn't listen to any music. I discussed a lot with my fellow laureates, I visited tatami making workshops, I made the costumes for a film by Christian Merlhiot (Slow Life, 2013), another resident. I also worked with the students at the French school in Kyoto, continuing with them a project around ceramics, gardens and children, begun previously at the Manufacture de Sèvres. For the first edition of Nuit Blanche, I presented 24 premiers jours à Kyoto, a set of diptychs combining photographs taken in Kyoto with images from my personal library, in order to place recent and old memories in parallel.
What makes it a special residence?
Emmanuelle Huynh - It is luxurious, wonderful and very complex. Being in Japan is already a residency in itself. It is an extremely powerful experience. Knowing how to lose time and not reach your goal is something you have to learn to put up with. I wanted to meet more people, but it was very difficult. For ikebana, I ended up in evening classes... I found things that I hadn't looked for: by serendipity, I experienced the shock of my life when I discovered the Bunraku National Puppet Theatre in Osaka. Through personal contacts, I managed to be accepted for several days in the kitchen of the restaurant Nobu in Tokyo. Over the duration of my residency in 2001, things remained rather summary, not very concrete, but I did really experience Japan. After my residency, in 2005, a bridge was created between Angers - where I was running the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine - and the choreographers Kosei Sakamoto and Yuko Mori in Kyoto, with subsequent student exchanges. The Villa offers more than you think at first. And it takes a lot of persistence: the premiere of this ikebana project only took place in 2009!
José Lévy - What interested me was the bubble offered by the Villa. A space of freedom and work that was like a hiatus, without any obligation to produce because it was a research residency. That said, I did four projects when I was only supposed to do one! It's a space of freedom and reflection, an unheard-of luxury that has allowed me to be even more prolific and rapid.
Élodie Royer - First of all, the residency offered me a long and precious period of research, which subsequently gave rise to numerous projects between France and Japan (for example, Yoann Gourmel and I introduced to France the work of the Japanese collective The Play, which produces ephemeral works in nature). The focus of my curatorial practice still lies in this back-and-forth between Japanese and international artistic practices: it is inscribed in the Japanese context and in the history of its environmental disasters, but always in relation to global resonances.
"I remember the pleasure of sharing"
What are your memories of Villa Kujoyama?
Ange Leccia - I remember the pleasure of sharing this experience in Japan with other artists. It was a fundamental moment, because it was during my stay that I became aware of the importance of residencies in supporting artistic projects. A few years later, I founded the Pavilion at the Palais de Tokyo, with the aim of offering the younger generation of artists the possibility to discover Paris as I had discovered Kyoto.
What impact did the residency have on your long-term work? And on your career?
Ange Leccia - This residency helped to establish my status as an international artist and, since then, I have not stopped returning to Japan and exhibiting my work there, such as in Naoshima or Hiroshima. The Shinto culture has profoundly changed my relationship with nature. I had already filmed La Mer, but Villa Kujoyama allowed me to amplify the transformation of my view of the natural elements.
Inviting a Japanese collaborator to join the project
What were your most memorable encounters at Villa Kujoyama?
Krikor Kouchian - We were bound by the same creative energy. The residency was an opportunity to exchange ideas and move forward together, which I think is not always the case in this kind of context. Meeting with the teams and the management of the Villa was also a very pleasant surprise. Another encounter was the place itself: the Villa and the surrounding forest were a deep inspiration for me. There was also the terrifying encounter with the mukade (Japanese millipedes, ed.), we all had nightmares about it!
Céline Pelcé - The residents, the everyday people, with whom there were many interactions. The tea ceremony teacher, Dairik Amae, who introduced me to this art and with whom I continue to correspond, Yuki Hagino, a pastry chef specialising in wild plants and rural ecosystems...
Flore Falcinelli - There were encounters inside and outside. In the Villa, I had a very fertile collaboration with Céline Pelcé: we had common interests, and we brought them together in an anthropo-decentred garden meal: the guests had to garden, digging in the earth to find objects and food... Outside the Villa, I would mention the ceramist Ikoma Keiko, with whom I took classes with no common language and even though I had never done ceramics before. It's another type of artistic encounter, purely through gesture.
Alexandru Balgiu - For my part, I've been around art schools quite a bit as a teacher and as a speaker. So it was important for me to feel like I was in a free school: we had spaces and a team at our disposal, we were really immersed... At the beginning, everyone came with an assigned discipline; then, we developed an intermediate approach, which blurred the limits of what could be writing, design, taste experience... We found ourselves in this common energy, on the frontier of disciplines.
Marcus Borja - I met a lot of people through theatre, I did three choral performances with 30 people each. I've travelled a lot: I've been to around twenty different cities in search of sounds, voices, flavours, partners... It would be impossible to choose one. My work is linked to polyphony, so my most memorable encounter was the one I had with the country in all its diversity.
Does the residency favour collaborations? What were yours?
Krikor Kouchian - Although artists are usually quite solitary, there were many collaborations during the 2021 season. In a way, we were isolated but together. This may seem contradictory, but I think that the fourteen weeks in isolation that we had to go through when we arrived was a great opportunity, it brought us closer together and allowed us to get to know the place. I produced two collaborations with other artists, performances mixing our disciplines: first, with Alexandru Balgiu, we combined sound poetry, ambient music, Riso prints and video. Then, with Céline Pelcé and the chef Kotomi Matsumoto, we organised an extrasensory dinner.
Flore Falcinelli - While the residency favours the uniqueness of each project, for me who wanted to work collaboratively, I had all the means to do so. In practical terms, we can invite artists into the Villa to produce collaborations: we have meeting spaces, work spaces and intimate spaces, as well as a lot of outdoor spaces that allow us to multiply creative practices. We all live together, the studios have the same configuration, there is an interdependence of experiences: the projects therefore unfold very quickly.
Marcus Borja - With Céline Pelcé, we designed a multi-sensory performance called Dérive nocturnethat was part cinema, part concert and part culinary performance, which was a real four-handed effort. The idea came from my project Note di notte. Night notes: Céline wanted to design an interactive menu with this film. So I entered this project with my film and musical practice, and Céline with her practice as a culinary artist.
Céline Pelcé - The residency encourages collaboration in the sense that relationships are established beyond a purely professional level. There is also daily life, exchanges in hallways, impromptu meetings, etc. I myself have collaborated with many of the Villa's residents, each time inviting a Japanese collaborator to join the project, to cross perceptions and concepts. It was fascinating!
Alexandru Balgiu - The residency should not be seen as an end in itself: it is important to see what it brings us over a long period of time, as the duration of the stay is extremely short. It is an invitation to go further, to continue the conversation.
Post-residency, tailor-made support
A cocoon. A hiatus during which a profound transformation takes place gently and silently. No production constraints, a pure period of incubation that will later lead to the emergence of a new stage in the artists' creative development. It is this unique opportunity to take one's time and be nourished by Japanese culture that Villa Kujoyama offers to the artists who stay there. But that is not all. After this rare interlude of introspection, the laureates begin the third and longest stage of their journey. For five years, the post-residency programme set up by Villa Kujoyama supports them in the development of the work they began in Kyoto.
Partnerships in France and abroad
Coordinated by Sumiko Oé-Gottini, a system of multi-year partnerships makes it possible to add to, deepen and enhance the productions that emerge after the stay in Japan. "The support is made to measure. After their return, we listen to each creator and are in constant contact with them to best respond to their needs, which differ according to the discipline. Those of a visual artist are not the same as those of a playwright, for example, or a researcher in art criticism," she explains. In Paris, the partnership with the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature gives the opportunity to produce and show the works of visual artists, performers and designers. This is where François-Xavier Richard is exhibiting for the first time his Orgue de papier, a musical instrument made of washi paper, the origins of which emerged during his stay in Kyoto. The contemporary art centre of the Abbaye de Maubuisson, in the Val-d'Oise, offers an extended residency period to finalise and experiment with work begun at the Villa. Cérémonie de l’olivier, a culinary performance conceived by Luz Moreno and Anaïs Silvestro, is the culmination of research into Japanese living spaces. "When they returned to France with the products and dishes they had collected there, they needed more time to work on a dramatic form with which to share their discoveries with the French public," adds Sumiko. Recently, residents have also been eligible for a residency at the Villa Albertine in the United States, an opportunity to broaden their scope of activity, to meet other people and, depending on the discipline, to consider commercial prospects for their creations.
A festival to celebrate three artist residencies
Created in 2016 on the initiative of the Académie de France in Madrid - Casa de Velázquez, the Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto and the Académie de France in Rome - Villa Médicis, ¡Viva Villa! is a festival whose programme of exhibitions, shows, concerts, conferences and readings aims to restore the work and research carried out in these three prestigious locations. Curated by Victorine Grataloup and Stéphane Ibars, the 2022 edition is entitled "Ce à quoi nous tenons". Inspired by the book by the philosopher Émilie Hache, the subject allows the practices of the 71 participants to be articulated, questioning political ecology as a form of social practice. More than just an artistic event, ¡Viva Villa! is also a unique encounter between the residents. "They are curious to know how the residency is going in the other villas, what the differences and similarities are. It's a very emotional moment," says Victorine. Five years after the end of their residency, the Villa Kujoyama residents are taking off with new wings.
When they leave for Japan, they do not yet know what awaits them. If their stay is well prepared beforehand with the teams from Villa Kujoyama and the Institut français, once they arrive, the artists quickly understand that the country has its share of surprises. Some discover ancestral techniques, others find partners for projects. Some go to explore remote regions, to be close to traditions, while others are inspired by the surrounding nature. During the few months of their residency, as they find, meet, exchange and wander, the laureates of Villa Kujoyama open up to a new world, where the creative possibilities are as vast as the culture that separates them. Soon after, or many years later, they will bring to life works that are deeply marked by their Japanese experience.
Pierre Charpin - The monkeys of Kyoto
Pierre Charpin went to Japan to develop a project around the urushi (Japanese lacquer) technique, soon developing an intense drawing activity. His favourite tools during his stay were a bottle of Indian ink and brushes bought in a 100 Yen Shop. Three days before his return to France, overcome by a sense of urgency, he drew a series of monkeys. Through rapid, intuitive and spontaneous gestures, the artist highlights the singularity of these animals which are a constituent element of the Kyoto landscape.
Eric Baudelaire - Return to (home)
During his residency at Villa Kujoyama in 2008, Éric Baudelaire met May Shigenobu, daughter of the founder of the Japanese Red Army, and the screenwriter, filmmaker and radical activist Masao Adachi. This encounter culminated in 2011 in The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi, and 27 Years Without Images, an epic experimental documentary. Filmed in Super 8 in the landscapes of Tokyo and Beirut, it goes back thirty years in two intersecting narratives that mix daily life, clandestinity, exile, politics and cinema, with the question of the image as a central point.
Gisèle Vienne - A disturbing articulation of opposites
A naturalistic forest, poems by Dennis Cooper, layers of sound led by Stephen O'Malley, a thick mist that invades the landscape by Fujiko Nakaya... It is in this almost mythical atmosphere that the three characters of This Is How You Will Disappear embody the slide from order to chaos, from beauty to tragedy. More than a performance, the Franco-Austrian dancer offers an immersive and moving sensory experience, produced with Japanese artists and collaborators.
Natacha Nisic - Communicating with the beyond
Fine arts, 2016
For their duo project at Villa Kujoyama, artist Natacha Nisic and historian Ken Daimaru conceived the film Osoresan. In the region known as the "Gates of Hell" in Japan, they set out to explore the landscapes and mythological characters. There they meet the last of the itakos, blind shamans trained to visit the realm of the dead. Between visions and traditional chants, in the landscapes of Fukushima, death and eternity intersect in a sociological and mythological representation of fear. Osoresan is the product of a two-year research project.
Jean-Luc Vilmouth - Luminous seduction
Fine arts, 1997
At the end of his residency, in 1997, Jean-Luc Vilmouth presented the work Bar séduire at the Spiral Garden in Tokyo. In this installation, screens are placed on individual bar tables. The visitor sitting on a stool is confronted with characters who, in turn, express their difficulty in revealing themselves to strangers. The customer of this unusual and luminous bar is free to stay or to "zap" on a new offer. A disturbing reflection on seduction in the age of speed dating and dating sites.
Catherine Meurisse - Painting nature
Catherine Meurisse, the first comic book artist to join the Académie des Beaux-arts, was a resident of the Villa Kujoyama in 2018. This experience, which involved introspection and immersion in Japanese landscapes, culminated in the album La Jeune Femme et la mer. The book takes the reader on a journey of initiation to discover the surrounding nature, starting from her arrival at the Villa. With a precise pen stroke, poetic colours and mirroring between characters, the author questions the place of man - and art - in nature.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster - Emotional landscape
The Marcel Duchamp Prize winner stayed at Villa Kujoyama in 1997. Released two years after her residency, the short film Riyo depicts the landscape of the Kamo River in Tokyo. A televised conversation between two teenagers reveals this place, a meeting and flirting point for young Tokyoites. Around their invisible presence, a completely different city emerges: emotional, transitory, not yet mature and open.
Susan Buirge - Tradition and modernity
One of the great names in contemporary dance, Susan Buirge was the very first resident choreographer at Villa Kujoyama, in the same year that it opened. In Japan, the American who had lived in France was initiated into Shinto philosophy and learned to respect space, the earth and nature. With the Shinto priest, musician and composer Tomihisa Hida, she created Le Cycle des saisons. A performance in four parts (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) that combines Western contemporary dance, traditional agrarian dance and ancient Japanese music, it began in 1992 and was completed six years later. Susan Buirge moved to Japan permanently in 2008.
Grégory Chatonsky - A walk through a protean garden
A pioneer of digital art, Gregory Chatonsky uses the Web and artificial intelligence as sources of inspiration. The artist addresses themes ranging from the disappearance of our civilisation to obsolescence and the hyperproduction of data. At Villa Kujoyama, where he was resident in 2014, he met Goliath Dyèvre. Together, they digitize in three dimensions the garden of Ryōan-ji, made up of fifteen rocks, at least one of which is always hidden from the viewer's gaze, regardless of the observation point. The virtual camera invites the viewer on an infinite and random journey through this ancient temple of Zen Buddhism.
François-Xavier Richard - Making paper sing
François-Xavier Richard is the founder of the Atelier Offard in Tours, which preserves the traditional know-how of handmade wallpaper. As part of his residency at Villa Kujoyama, he experimented with washi. Listed as an intangible world heritage site, Japanese paper serves as the main material for his organ, a vast architectural structure where the keyboard explores all the sound possibilities offered by the material. The instrument will be unveiled and heard for the first time during the 2021 Journées du Patrimoine at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris.
Benjamin Graindorge - Time does its work
Respecting the temporality of creation is what Benjamin Graindorge learned in Japan. During his residency at the Villa in 2009, he made numerous drawings in his notebooks. Although the Ikebana Medulla vase and the asphericalSkyLight lamp were produced in 2010, it was not until the first lockdown in 2020 that the designer went back to the project of striated wooden shelves with subtle proportions. Released in 2022, the Kujoyama shelves proves that the most beautiful objects sometimes take time to come to life.
You can also read
Les résidences d’artistes, un outil diplomatique à la mode pour la France - Le Monde, Roxana Azimi
Villa Kujoyama, les artistes français à l’école de la sobriété japonaise - Le Figaro, Valérie Duponchelle
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