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Ian Yang
Role
Advisor - China I Japan I South Korea
Email
i.yang [at] dutchculture.nl
 

The impact of COVID-19 on cultural cooperation with Japan in 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on cultural cooperation with Japan in 2020

What have Dutch artists achieved together with Japanese partners? What do the numbers reveal about the impact of the pandemic on the international activities?
By Ian Yang

Every year DutchCulture creates an overview of the cultural activities planned in each country in its international database. The year 2020 is no exception to the rule, albeit an exceptional year in many aspects.

Now that the world, and especially artistic spaces all over that world, are starting to re-open, many of us long to look at the future and the possibilities waiting for us. The pandemic made it difficult for artists to bring their work to an audience, especially an audience abroad. Yet before we jump into the next phase, let’s take just a moment at what happened in Japan in 2020 according to our Database with cultural activities. Unlike any other year, the 2020 fact sheet shows us not only the events that happened but also the ones we missed out on. It shows us the resilience, the scale and the impact of being able to collaborate culturally and internationally.  

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ITA production 'Taming of the Shrew' directed by Ivo Van Hove, shown at Tokyo Festival 2020. Photo: Jan Versweyveld
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ITA production 'Taming of the Shrew' directed by Ivo Van Hove, shown at Tokyo Festival 2020. Photo: Jan Versweyveld
Impact of COVID-19 

2020 was supposed to be a buzzy year full of exciting international activities in Japan on the occasion of Tokyo Olympics & Paralympics, where the whole world would lay eyes on. However, due to COVID-19, numerous plans had to seek for recalibration. They are either cancelled, rescheduled, or altered into online formats. Such challenge also dominated Dutch cultural activities. The NL-Kanto programme, for example, had to pause and stretch for another year. Although the fate of each project is different, participating artists and cultural institutions in both the Netherlands and Japan made great effort to find alternative solutions and reach their audience.

In 2020, in total 129 Dutch artists and cultural organisations participated in 294 cultural activities across Japan and online, while 352 were planned until the pandemic hit hard. These activities took place at 151 venues across 59 places in the country, among which nearly 2/3 happened in the greater metropolitan area of Tokyo.  

Looking into each season, the amount of activities were still relatively high in the first quarter before COVID-19 spread extensively in Europe and in Japan. In the autumn, usually a golden season for cultural events, online activities saw a clear surge, especially in October and November.

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Banner Mark Manders exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
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'The Absence of Mark Manders' exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 2021.
Comparing to 2019

In comparison, the amount of artists andorganisations, venues and cities almost all counted only half of the data of 2019. However, we could still see a good variety in disciplines. Although the percentage of performing arts (music, dance and theatre) shrunk largely from 44% in 2019 to 26% in 2020, due to the nature of the art form that requires artists to be present on stage. But there are also many virtual efforts being made into successful exchange. International Theatre Amsterdam, for instance, virtually presented their oeuvre to Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre twice throughout the year.  

Visual arts and audiovisual media together counted more than half of all activities. Some new Dutch artist exhibitions could still happen in Japanese museums with the absent artist instructing the physical installation remotely via webcam, despite of the 8 hour (winter time) time difference. A good example is artist Mark Manders’ first solo exhibition in the country, under the poetically fact-reflecting title The Absence of Mark Manders.

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virtual art book fair japan
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Photo: Virtual Art Book Fair Japan
Long-term partners

The rise of online events was definitely phenomenal in 2020, especially as alternative outcome of committed long-term partnerships. Shibaura House, the years-long collaborator with Dutch Embassy in Tokyo, was the most visited venue in Japan in 2020, thanks to their experienced organisation of Dutch events and the flexibility to move from physical to virtual clouds. Tokyo Art Book Fair, whose organisers frequently visited the Netherlands and participated into DutchCulture visitor’s programme in 2019, also managed to move the entire 2020 edition online, featuring an experimentally vivid guest country programme of the Netherlands. Its easy online access for visitors inspired an international audience, let alone Japanese.

Read the complete facstsheet.

Check out the complete overview of Dutch cultural activities in Japan in our database. If you are a cultural professional interested in an international collaboration with Japan, feel free to contact our Japan advisor Ian Yang.

Database disclaimer

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