Submission
Afra Eisma & Susan Kooi

Utsuro Bune

Legend has it that at the end of February in 1803, an alien submarine object washed ashore somewhere along the Japanese coast. The mysterious vessel came to be known as the “Utsuro Bune” (虚ろ船). Inspired by the story of the “Utsuro Bune” and traditional Japanese crafts, Dutch artists Afra Eisma and Susan Kooi spent three weeks in Kyoto, Arita, and Ukiha, creating a new series of textile and ceramic works. The results, along with pieces the pair brought from their studios in the Netherlands, were presented by the artists via Instagram Live at Garden Lab in a completely virtual exhibition. In times of social distancing due to the spread of COVID-19, digital tools provide an experimental new means of artistic and cultural exchange.


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Virtual Artist Talk & Exhibition: 虚ろ船 / UTSURO BUNE

Garden Lab is pleased to announce their first virtual exhibition tour by Dutch artists Afra Eisma and Susan Kooi, curated by Yoriko Ishizawa.

At the end of February 1803, an unidentified submarine object washed ashore on the Japanese coast and was named the “Utsuro Bune”. Inside, local fishermen found the walls decorated with characters written in an unknown language. On the floor lay soft carpets in mysterious fabrics along with a collection of beautifully decorated ceramic cups. They also noticed a supply of cake and water belonging to the alien woman onboard. She had light pink skin and strawberry blond hair and no one could understand the language she spoke. Nowadays, the story of the “Utsuro Bune” is described as “a documented encounter of the third kind”.

In Garden Lab’s traditional Japanese townhouse, an alien campsite has mysteriously appeared, with arms and legs taking over the tatami floor. In this improvised shelter lie melted ceramics featuring symbols of an extraterrestrial language. Leftover pieces of kimono from a recycle shop are hanging from the stairs; tied-together white, pink and yellow strips of stained silk and polyester. A more colorful tufted piece of wool with the same mysterious signs is found nearby.

The exhibition continues outdoors, where creatures made of local Japanese clay brought to life using a prehistoric firing method are taking over the alleyway lined with abandoned houses. Dragons and bathhouse ladies lie resting on dust-covered post boxes and weary door frames, almost as if they had always called the narrow alley home.

Further down the alleyway hang caviar boxes which the duo rescued from the trash. They have found a new life as frames for colorful drawings inspired by the artists’ experiences during the last month spent exploring Japan. Memorable encounters from their travels are expressed in vibrant hues, such as the lady blow-drying her pubic hair in a sentō bathhouse, or the man who went on a stroll with his giant turtle. The artists themselves often appear within these scenes, easily recognisable by their bright blue jackets.

The immaculate inner garden on the opposite side of the traditional Japanese house stands in stark contrast to the timeworn alleyway. The long textile ropes composed of joined fabric scraps of different varieties and colors are a constant presence throughout the exhibition, and appear both seductive and appealing in the serene setting of rocks and trees.

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Artist Profiles

Afra Eisma, born in 1993 and based in The Hague, Netherlands, studied Fine Arts at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, and Central Saint Martin’s in London. She has taken part in numerous exhibitions, including a solo exhibition at the Vleeshal, Middelburg; presentations at Art Rotterdam; No Man’s Art Gallery, Amsterdam; ABC Clubhuis, Antwerp; Unfair, Amsterdam; and numerous group exhibitions at Billytown, The Hague, where she currently has her studio. Other projects include a residency in Cluj, Romania; joint screenings with Adrian Bridget, among others, at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam; East China Normal University, Shanghai; and Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht. Eisma was also nominated for the Royal Award for Modern Painting in 2018 and the Stroom Award in 2017.
www.afraeisma.com

Susan Kooi, born in 1988 in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2012, with an exchange in visual arts at Emily Carr University for Art and Design in Vancouver. She has held solo exhibitions at Sorbus Gallery Helsinki, showroom MAMA in Rotterdam, Apice for Artists in Amsterdam and Spring in California. She has also taken part in duo and group shows at HAUNT in Yogyakarta and Fons Welters in Amsterdam, among others. Kooi has participated in artist residencies in Portugal, Italy, Finland, Japan and the Netherlands. In 2014, she received the young talent stipend, and in 2018 she received the proven talent stipend from the Mondriaan Fund. In addition to her individual projects, Kooi is also part of the art collective Samet Yilmaz, who have exhibited at a.o. in Lodos Contemporáneo in Mexico City, Konsthal in Stockholm and Trampoline Gallery in Antwerp, as well as the music duo echo+seashell, who performed at the Banff Centre in Canada, Kiasma Museum in Helsinki and Paradiso in Amsterdam, a.o.

www.susankooi.com

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This project is generously supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Stroom Den Haag and the Mondriaan Fund.

Special thanks to Yoriko Ishizawa, Ryoko Baba, Bas Valckx, Hiroki Miura and Garden Lab