WELCOME TO THE BACKSTAGE

Behind
the Mystery

Geisha

Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden (NL)

In the exhibition ‘Geisha’, visitors encounter a highly controversial phenomenon and style icon from Japan’s elite culture. For the exhibition, we tried to find the right balance between the world renowned historical Japanese collection from the National Museum of Ethnology and the beautiful kimonos and objects on loan from a geisha house in Kyoto. Through a play with different perspectives and deploying interconnecting story layers, misunderstandings and prejudices around geisha are elucidated. The usually hidden world of geisha is made accessible to the public gradually by way of a measured presentation in which various elements are engaged with one by one.

Location
Leiden (NL)
Client
Museum Volkenkunde
Year
2014
Surface
800
Status
Temporary
Role
Concept, Spatial design, Graphic design
Light design
HeinzLoopstra
Interactives
IJsfontein Interactive Media
Audio / AV
Kjeld Duits, Anthony Knight, Luis Patron, Invision, Van Bijnen BV
Realisation
Iris Vormgeving, Studio America, Vertical Vision
Development
Floor Scholte (museum Volkenkunde), Prof. Dr. Matthi Forrer
How we encounter geisha usually

To convey the story of geisha in a coherent way, we have laid out the exhibition thematically. Yoshifumi-san, the owner of a geisha house in Kyoto, introduces each room’s theme via a video screen. The first two rooms engage with geisha as icon, and her practice. Visitors see how we usually encounter geisha.

A world we never see

A connecting corridor subsequently functions as a transition space: via a cherry blossom hedge visitors enter the second part of the exhibition, in which the focus is on ‘the making of’ geisha. This is the world no one ever has access to. It is all about the endless training and dedication of young girls who want to enter into the profession. A women’s world full of seduction, mysticism and symbolism, kimonos, and above all a striving for absolute perfection.