Ian Yang
Advisor - China I Japan I South Korea

Good practice: MONO Japan Online AIR

Good practice: MONO Japan Online AIR

MONO Japan online Artists In Residence programme is good example of profound, educative and exciting online artistic exchange during the pandemic.
By Lotte Bosch

In January DutchCulture published Turn and Face the Strange, an overview of outstanding international cultural exchange practices that took place in 2020. The overview contains examples of good practices during the past pandemic year in the 23 focus countries of the International Cultural Policy framework 2021-2024, capturing the state of play at the various embassies and consulates. Today we spotlight MONO Japan, establishing new Dutch-Japanese creative partnerships.

New audiences and collaborations

MONO Japan was founded in 2016 aiming to connect the cultural sectors in Japan and Europe through the celebration of contemporary craft and design. The main event of the organisation is the yearly fair where Japanese craftspeople and small companies introduce their products to the Dutch and European audiences, and both European and Japanese artists participate in a programme of workshops, lectures and discussions. For more than 70 Japanese artists and craftspeople, the fair has functioned as a stepping stone to fruitful collaborations with European artists.

A new opportunity: Online AIR

Due to the pandemic many artists in residencies, fairs and exhibitions were postponed or cancelled. Although the fifth edition of the MONO Japan fair had to be cancelled, MONO sought opportunities to continue their activities through their Artist In Residence (AIR) programme and moved it to an online space. The project is supported by the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo and will continue until April 2021.

Dutch artist Paul Beumer works with dying techniques on barkcloth, cotton and paper. Photo: MONO Japan
Concept and participants

The aim of MONO Japan Online AIR is to bring together Dutch artists and designers who are keen to learn about the Japanese way of working with various materials, with Japanese partners who apply centuries-old craft techniques. MONO Japan selected two Dutch artists and two Japanese craftspeople.

Dutch artist Paul Beumer, who works with dying techniques on barkcloth, cotton and paper, was connected to the mud dye textile maker Yukihito Kanai from the island of Amami Ohshima. Nienke Hoogvliet and Tim Jongerius from Studio Nienke Hoogvliet for material research and conceptual design, where connected to Chikara Kojima, whose work centres around bamboo crafts, traditional dyeing and braiding techniques.

Via an online connection, Kanai and Kojima show their workshops, materials and work processes to their Dutch partners, who are able to ask questions and share their ideas about the material and the work. MONO Japan publishes edited documentaries of the digital encounters on their YouTube channel. On 17 March a public online event takes place, where the two creative pairs share the results of their collaboration and talk about their experiences. After the presentations, DutchCulture’s Japan advisor Ian Yang will lead a round table discussion.

Live presentation of MONO Japan Online AIR on 17 March.
MONO Monthly

Besides the online residency project, MONO Japan initiated MONO Monthly. In January 2021, the first online session of the project was launched. Whereas Online AIR connects professional artists and craftspeople, MONO Monthly gives a broader opportunity to connect with Japanese craftsmanship and design. The March edition is an online sale in collaboration with the jewellery brand called Alimano, inspired by a mountain village located in the centre of Mie prefecture.

The online practices of MONO Japan show how it is still possible to establish profound professional relationships, educate and excite new audiences about Japanese craftmanship and stage small companies and brands in times of corona. 

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.

Read about other good practices of international cultural exchange