Stroom Bibliotheeksessies: Nishiko

Friday 10 June 2016
Location: library Stroom Den Haag, Hogewal 1-9, The Hague
Archive Stroom Bibliotheeksessies/library sessions

On Friday June 10th a small gathering of invited guests took place in the library of Stroom Den Haag, during a beautiful springtime afternoon. It was the second library session in 2016, this time with our special guest Nishiko, an artist who was born in Japan and currently lives and works in The Hague. We spoke about her work and about her inspirations while handling the many books she brought with her in a large travelling bag. It became clear that there are many, and sometimes surprising, connections between her own work and the books she loves.

Nishiko studied photography in Japan before she decided to come to study Fine Art in the Netherlands. She did so because she was intrigued by reading about the Dutch results of Komar and Melamid's worldwide questionnaire on The Most Wanted / Most Unwanted Painting. Contrary to all the other results a large majority of the Dutch voters seemed to love abstract art, while expressing a dislike for realist paintings. This extraordinary fact made her want to come to study at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.

Nishiko's work leans towards pointlessness by emphasising the fragility of facts. She shows that opinions, ideas, objects have no fixed definition or value in themselves. She shifts the value of things by means of minute actions in everyday life, carefully planning them beforehand while looking for surprises underway. In many of her projects she collaborates with musicians, other artists and craft specialists.

Nishiko is intrigued by instructional design, by How-To Books, 'point it' traveller's language kits, and picture dictionaries. She tries to understand the foreign languages that surround her by attempting to translate them, and by whiting out words she doesn't yet understand in second hand books, transforming them in the meantime into concrete poetry volumes.

In 2011 Nishiko started her Repairing Earthquake Project. It is the outcome of an intense thinking process about the earthquake and the tsunami disaster in Japan. She undertook the attempt of finding things in the area that had been destroyed in the tsunami, and returning them to their original state. While interacting with all sorts of people through the action of repairing, she faced the mind-stopping wonder of nature, and the people who had the trial of this personal experience.

In order not to forget Nishiko decided to write down her experiences, creating a series of books including the photographs she had been taking. She wants to continue this project over a longer period of time, and share with others the experience of watching over the ever-changing disaster-struck area, trying to understand the difficulties for the people who live there.

Nishiko's bag full of books
The big surprise of the many books that were on the table this afternoon was Te Hooi En Te Gras by Rien Poortvliet. This immensely popular Dutch draftsman is famous for his nostalgic depictions of a past that never was. Certainly not the expected inspiration for a conceptual artist! But in the exchange of ideas during the session it became more and more clear that in the network of Nishoko's fascinations there are several strands that connect Rien Poortvliet's depictions of daily life with her love for picture manuals, and creative misunderstandings of foreign languages. Seen through her eyes the drawings of Rien Poortvliet could be part of the everlasting Japanese cult magazine Note for Life in which good housekeeping is lovingly propagated in exquisite detail. Here you can find ‘the real thing' in contrast to the fashionable interior and outdoor magazines, which are full of propaganda for the hipster - fake - lifestyle.
What a library session! Discussing Rien Poortvliet without a hint of irony is only possible in a circle of trust.