Takahashi, Kaori: Updating cultural migrants: from research on Berlin-based Japanese visual artists

Following German reunification, Berlin has attracted many artists, and Japanese artists are no exception. Although it is in Europe, Berlin still offers low rents, it is possible to get by using only English and visas are relatively accessible.

This research considers career strategies for Berlin-based Japanese visual artists and analyses, what “Berlin-based” and “Japanese (Asian)” mean in their careers. The paths their lives have taken through geographic space are strongly connected to the development of their artistic ideas and thoughts. Where they live affects their creative work. In addition, living abroad can prompt these artists to reflect on themselves deeply because of the challenge of living in a very different culture. It depends heavily on what they want to create and whom they consider their audience.

These artists’ identification as artists is also different in Japan versus in Berlin. Some of this difference stems from the fact that they need to obtain artist visas to live in Berlin, cementing their status as artists. But this is not the only way to identify them as artists, and how they describe their conditions depends on their situations. By interpreting their narratives, this research updates the concept of cultural migrants (Fujita 2009). While Fujita’s research considers the young Japanese experience as a very limited, uncommon one, my research focuses on the daily life experiences of subjects, taking a longitudinal approach. I am analysing their career plans as professional artists, connecting creative migrant research to creative migrant and creative labour studies.

Being able to move across oceans and borders opens artists up to new possibilities. However, in recent years, the situation in Berlin has become more competitive. Sociology about artists shed light on a new way of living in our society.