Japanese photographer Shinji Otani and Dutch photographer Johan Nieuwenhuize recognise a similar state of mind in each other’s work. They share a large overlap in working methods, but their concepts and fascinations differ. Both lens-based artists walk the city and take images instinctively and continuously. Both work from their own image archive and combine images made in different cities and from different periods. Otani works from a documentary perspective, Nieuwenhuize deals with his subject in an abstract manner.
Both artists regard photography as a language. They are not interested in revealing truth and seek not to tell a story one dimensionally, but look for ways of telling a story so it can be interpreted differently each and every time. Some may find humor in the images, or beauty, others see absurdity. Sometimes this is what they aim for, sometimes it isn’t. One could see the OTANI NIEUWENHUIZE project as a new language, or dialect between the two artists.
The transactive memory theory by philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers shows us that people working in duo’s or groups build up a larger collective memory than do two individuals. When two friends walk a city they remember things selectively, subconsciously depending on the other to remember the other things for them. Shinji Otani and Johan Nieuwenhuize investigate the collective memory developing between the two of them, while photographing the same subject at the same day.
With their project OTANI NIEUWENHUIZE, the artists look into Japanese and Dutch culture and into cultural tourism. Behaving as tourists themselves they photograph places where culture is being “consumed”. In the Netherlands they visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and De Efteling in Kaatsheuvel. In Japan they visit the shrine of Dazaifu Tenmangu in Dazaifu and the historic site of the former Dutch trading post Dejima in Nagasaki. Their fifth subject, amusement park Huis ten Bosch, represents both Japanese and Dutch culture.
On site they switch between working on their own and working together. They investigate locations by the means of photography, scanning the space from their individual perspective. In this way a collective memory about the place is being created.
During the editing proces a new layer is being added to the project and the work takes on it’s definitive form. By combining new meaning arrises between pictures. A new space is being formed, a space for the viewer to interpret the work and to create stories of his own.
The publication of the project contains five magazines. The styles of editing both artists play a role in the different issues. The magazines about the subjects in the Netherlands are edited by Nieuwenhuize, the Japanese subjects are edited by Otani. Collaboratively they edit the magazine about amusement park Huis ten Bosch.
With this collaboration Otani and Nieuwenhuize seek to extend their perspective as artists. They aim to be open to the input of the other and are using this input to challenge their own work.
They regard the project as a kind of game. One shows a picture, the other responds to it with his own. Like you don’t show your best cards in a game cards straight away, the result of their game, the visual memory between them, develops along the way. The purpose is not winning, but matching the picture of the other with a challenging one definitively is. Everything to create a new space and dialogue between the images.