»I can also—though in no way claiming to represent or to analyze reality itself (these being the major gestures of Western discourse)— isolate somewhere in the world (faraway) a certain number of features (a term employed in linguistic), and out of these features deliberately form a system. It is this system which I shall call: Japan.« (Roland Barthes, Empire of the Signs)
Since 2005 Katja Stuke and Oliver Sieber have been traveling to Japan, working on topics from subculture to surveillance. Since 2011 they are developing an extensive body of work they call the »Japanese Lesson«. At the beginning it was a single one-channel video, dealing with the visual influence, research and overwealming impressions of the Japanese cities, life and culture. Since then their perspective became more elaborated and several new works have been created: photobooks, different photographic series, dealing with topics like protest and activism, activists and landscape — political landscape.
Exhibition: The Photobook Phenomenon, CCCB Barcelona, 2017
Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber: A future memory. A book to come. 2017
15 pigment prints, unframed, 50 x 65 cm (grid: 160 x 350 cm )
(Printed matter have always been an important part of our artistic practice – in our independent as well as the collaborative projects. The process of developing a project often gets clear when looking at the maquettes. In some cases you already know how the book will look like while shooting the images. In that case you rather need a dummy but you might need to work hard on the concept of an exhibition. In other cases you are very sure about the whole concept of a book but you need to try several different forms of the book, develop the editing of the images, change decisions about size, paper or book-binding.)
Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber. Japanese Lesson. Artist Book, 2017
20 x 28 cm, 1260 pages, incl. 630 color plates
(also incl. 13 drawings, carbon paper, a gloassary)
For the different chapters of »Japanese Lesson« Katja Stuke and Oliver Sieber took photographs while walking on the borders of various neighborhoods in Osaka, Yokohama and Tokyo. Falling into a meditative rhythm between walking and photographing the two artists where discussing topics like ‚Political Landscapes‘, ‚Borders‘ or ‚How a Neighborhood can define your Identity‘. They also visited parts in Tokyo which change for the future, mainly because of the 2020 Olympic Games. Questions like ‚Who owns the cities’ or ‚Reason for Change’ are brought together with questions about identity and belonging.
On each of these walks Katja Stuke and Oliver Sieber took images around on a regular basis – depending on time or distance. These walks are brought together in one massive artist books and take shape in different photographic images, framed photographs on the walls or projections of photographic sequences. Continue reading Political Landscape: Artist Book.
Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber, The Book – The Film (excerpt)
one-channel video, 2018, 49:15 min
Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber, Walking Meditation #1
»In and Out« Sanya, April 12, 2017, 3 – 6:30 pm
36 digital prints, 29 x 42 cm, framed (grid: 200 x 280 cm)
山谷 San’ya is an area in the Taitō district of Tokyo, located south of the Namidabashi intersection, around the Yoshino-dori. A neighborhood named „San’ya“ existed until 1966, but the area was renamed and split between several neighborhoods. It is a region with a distinct culture, an area of crowded, cheap rooming houses where day laborers live.San’ya dates to the Edo period. Lower caste workers, butchers, tanners, leatherworkers, and the like, were forced to live in this undesirable region by the predominantly Buddhist authorities. It has retained its association with both lower class workers and with craftsmen. Within the past few years gentrification has begun to encroach on the area. In recent years, some of the rooming houses have converted to provide cheap accommodation for foreign backpackers.
Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber, Walking Meditation #5
»The Headquarter« Imperial Hotel, April 23, 2017, 4:45 – 6:30 pm
24 pigment prints, 29 x 21 cm, framed (grid: 110 x 180 cm)
The Imperial Hotel was created in the late 1880s at the request of the Japanese aristocracy to cater to the increasing number of Western visitors to Japan. The hotel site is located just south of the Imperial Palace grounds. Three main buildings have stood on the hotel site, each of which embodied the finest Western design of its era. Including annexes, there have been at least 10 structures that have been part of the Imperial Hotel, including two designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. […] In the years and months leading up to the Games 1964, the hotels tried hard to get the various committees and federations to provide more exact numbers of guests. By the late 1960s, the Wright-designed structure was falling into decay, part of the building sinking into its foundation. The hotel was closed at the end of 1967, and demolished to make way for a high-rise structure. The Imperial Hotel will be the IOC Headquarter during the 2020 Olympic Games and demolished afterwards.
Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber, Walking Meditation #8,
»The Island« Ariake, April 30, 2017; 2 – 4:15 pm
one-channel video, 70 photographs, 6:15 min (illustration)
Ariake is a location in Kôtô, Tokyo. It is best known as the region adjacent to and directly east of Odaiba. Ariake is subdivided into four chome and comprises part of the Tokyo Bay Landfill No. 10. For the 2020 Olympic Games several venues will be build in Ariake: Ariake Arena: Olympic Velodrome, Olympic Gymnastic Centre, Ariake Tennis Park, Odaiba Marine Park and many more.
荒川区 Arakawa-ku is a special ward located in Tokyo Metropolis, Japan. The area was mainly agricultural in the Edo period. In 1651, Kozukappara, the Tokugawa’s largest execution ground (located next to Minami-Senju station), was built. Beginning in the Meiji era, the area became industrial as factories were built on the water front. After World War II a lot of Koreans settled permanently in Arakawa, many founded their own, often little respected, busineses specialized in the so-called waste industry (kuzumonogyô), recycling various residues and residual materials from the production of the surrounding industrial companies.
Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber, Walking Meditation #13,
»I was a sleeping tree« Nishinari, May 24, 2017; 2 – 7:30 pm
one-channel video, 281 photographs, 23:15 min (illustration)
One part of Nishinari ward is Kamagasaki, located near the south of the Osaka loop line; it’s a so called „Yoseba,“ an area where unskilled workers live and work day in and day out. The three largest Yosebas are Kamagasaki, Kotobuki in Yokohama and Sanya in Tokyo. Other smaller Yosebas can be found in many larger Japanese cities.
The first Yosebas arose in the 19th century: people who were incarcerated were arrested and lodged in Yosebas, then forced to work in land reclamation or dam construction. At the end of the 1950s, the Yosebas system was reactivated because it was hoped to meet the needs of rapid capitalist growth in Japan. At that time, as now, the task was to provide day to day access to cheap labor for the construction, shipbuilding and manufacturing industries.
Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber: Finding Le Corbusier ’s 63 Colours in ‚Deep Japan’
Everytime we come to Japan and talk about Minowa or Ikebukuro (places in Tokyo where we stayed during our first visits), about Nishinari or Kamagasaki in Osaka (places we find quite interesting, where we met nice and interesting people, who teached us a lot about Japanese history and present times) the reaktion is always the same: „Ohh. Deep Japan.“
To find out, what this ‚Deep Japan‘ might be, we visited these – and some other places – again and had a closer look. Fotos taken 2017 in Akihabara, Tokyo / Arakawa-Ku, Tokyo / Asaka, Osaka, Asakusa, Tokyo / Higashi-Sumida, Tokyo / Higashi-Toyama, Tokyo, Ikebukuro, Tokyo / Ikuno, Osaka / Kamagasaki, Osaka, Kirigaoka, Tokyo / Kotobuki-Cho, Yokohama / Mikawashima, Tokyo, Minowa, Tokyo / Nishinari, Osaka / San’ya, Tokyo, Sumida, Tokyo / Tateishi, Tokyo / Yokosuka
Without learning the language in a ‚Japanese Lesson‘ the two artists where not ‚Lost in Translation‘. The ‚lessons’ they took by walking and discussing, coming around and meeting all kinds of people, experienecing daily life and nightlife, teached them about landscape and protest, about subculture and politics, about music and places, about spaces and emotions. At the end experiences in different countries and cultures help to mirror back and to change the perception of the situation or society in ones home-country. The connection of different fields of research, the hypothesis that everything is connected form the foundation for their artistic projects.
This website is still under construction. The content is constantly developping and new works and texts by Katja Stuke and Oliver Sieber will be added.
Japanese Lesson is a project by Katja Stuke (*1968) and Oliver Sieber (*1966), both live and work in Düsseldorf, Germany. Since 1999 they publish the photo-fanzine Frau Böhm where they juxtapose works from different series to develop collective works for the publications. Under the label BöhmKobayashi they cover an extensive range of personas: photographers and artists, curators and exhibition organizers (ANT!FOTO, Photoszene Cologne), designers, art book editors and publishers. Regardless, in their works and activities as artists and art facilitators they have long since become moderators of a very specific photographic culture.
During the last years they i.a. exhibited at Museum for Contemporary Photography Chicago, Stadtmuseum München, Palazzo da Mosto Reggio Emilia, Kunsthalle Bremen, Museum für Photographie Braunschweig, Fondation d’entreprise Hermès Bern, Photomuseum Antwerp, Florence Loewy Paris, Museum Folkwang Essen or Kunstmuseum Bonn.