Villa Kamogawa A dialogue between Germany and Japan

Villa Kamogawa.
Villa Kamogawa. | Photo: Noriko Yasui

It was five years ago that the Goethe-Institut’s artists’ residence Villa Kamogawa opened its doors. At the same time, Japan was shaken by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Now it is time to look back at the past five years and at how art helps to grapple with crises.

Villa Kamogawa was opened in celebration of the 150-year anniversary of German-Japanese relations in 2011. Since then, the programme has been offering cultural professionals from Germany the opportunity to live and work in Japan for three months at a time.

 The President of the Goethe-Institut, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, at the anniversary celebration of Villa Kamogawa. The President of the Goethe-Institut, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, at the anniversary celebration of Villa Kamogawa. | Photo: Noriko Sawai “Five years ago, it was my privilege to open Villa Kamogawa as the Goethe-Institut’s first artists’ residence along with then Federal President Christian Wulff,” relates Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, the president of the Goethe-Institut. “Since then, it has blossomed to become an exemplary house, offering twelve artists a change in scenery for their artistic work every year. This – and our alumni work – creates lasting networks.”

Inspiration and artistic orientation

The work of Villa Kamogawa centres on supporting the artists-in-residence to realize their planned projects as well as develop their ideas. A stay in Kyoto serves the residents as inspiration and artistic orientation while focusing on a direct dialogue with the local cultural scene and lasting networks with cultural actors in the host country as well as within the Villa.

Doris Dörrie is an alumni of Villa Kamogawa. Photo: Noriko Sawai The film director Doris Dörrie and the composer Ulrike Haage are one example of such a network. The two are alumni of Villa Kamogawa who collaborated for the first time on Dörrie’s latest film Greetings from Fukushima. The film opened the anniversary celebrations of the residence on 14 October in the presence of the director. “Villa Kamogawa is a great source of inspiration. My stay there not only enriched me; it simply made me happy,” Dörrie emphasized.

Focus on Fukushima

The disaster in Fukushima was not only the subject of the film, but also the thematic focus of the entire anniversary programme. “When we celebrate five years of Villa Kamogawa today, we cannot help but remember that the Fukushima disaster also occurred five years ago,” said Klaus-Dieter Lehman. “It is self-evident that with our anniversary programme, we commemorate this tragic event and all the people affected by it.”

The programme also included a panel discussion on 15 October on “Art on Reconstruction,” with the present artists-in-residence Daniela Hoferer, Jonas Rothlaender and Eva-Maria Koskinen.

A panel discussion with the topic A panel discussion with the topic "Art in Reconstruction" was part of the anniversary program. | Photo: Noriko Sawai Strengthening artistic networks

The presence of Doris Dörrie, Ulrike Haage, Nis-Momme Stockmann and Hans-Christian Schink also marked the beginning of alumni work at Villa Kamogawa, aimed at strengthening and promoting the artistic networks beyond the residencies.

The singer and samisen player Mika Shigemori, who has already taken part in joint events with the residents from Germany, confirms how well the exchange works, saying, “It was the reason that I was able to take part as performer and composer in the stage production Nichirin no tsubasa (Wings of the Sun) by the director and visual artist Miwa Yanagi, who was also at the event. And I was able to introduce Philip Bußmann, another artist here, to a geisha in order to support him in implementing his project in Kyoto.”

Intercultural exchange

The intercultural exchange is supported by concrete projects, for example through the Creators@Kamogawa event series held six times each year with Japanese cultural professionals during which the artists work out common themes.

Mayumi Yamamoto, the director of the cultural programme at the Kyoto Art Center, appreciates the fruitful collaboration between Villa Kamogawa and local cultural stakeholders, saying, “Villa Kamogawa is an always reachable and reliable partner for the Kyoto Art Center and its valuable tips and advice makes it an irreplaceable presence. I am proud that we have been able to realize ambitious projects in close cooperation.”