maya watanabe earthquakes
gastcurator madelon van schie
4 February 2018 - 3 March 2018
“The earthquake only needed one moment to destroy long-standing illusions.” 
The Earthquakes exhibition shows the video installation by Maya Watanabe from 2016-2017. In two videos, abrupt and disruptive events are recorded that take place in an empty theater in Japan. One video shows the scenario at the macro level, the other at the micro level. Against the background of a mysterious, ominous soundscape, the storyline unfolds around an aquarium and an apparently ordinary planter. Until that inexplicable, devastating moment, when chaos takes over and the threat changes into a sinister disaster scene. After this staggering interruption, the sequence of events begins again. The situation has been restored to its original state unnoticed.
Watanabe’s filming is slow and controlled, and her movement is – just like the passage of time in the work – circular. In this way she creates an idea of objectivity, distance and control, as if she is trying to defuse catastrophic events. Nevertheless, the contrast with the sudden drama is great every time. The explorer Alexander von Humboldt described an earthquake as an event that only needs one moment to destroy long-standing illusions. Everything that seemed solid and familiar suddenly turns out to be a delusion: “We feel cheated by the purported calm of nature; we are alert to the least noise; for the first time we distrust the ground on which we have set our feet on for so long. ” By staging and scaling ‘nature’ and the strict directing of disasters within a theater, Earthquakes precisely emphasizes illusion.
The video can be seen as a metaphor for major events that can completely disrupt a life. Earlier in her work, Watanabe related herself to the traumatic past of Peru, which just as much involved a major interruption of peace and order. However, the earthquake is not a random symbol; at a time when our quality of life seems to be increasingly determined by the whims of nature, the work refers to the uncontrollability of the earth, albeit in a highly controlled and artificial setting. At the same time, the disasters in Earthquakes seem to have a purifying effect. Assumed collateral is swept away and keeps rebuilding itself.
The work of Maya Watanabe (1983, Peru) has been included in exhibitions in Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Matadero, Madrid, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco and film festivals such as Videobrasil, Instants video, LOOP and Madrid Abierto. Simultaneously with Earthquakes, her work can be seen in De Garage in Rotterdam. Watanabe worked as an audiovisual designer on theater productions in Spain, Austria, Italy and Peru. She lives in Amsterdam and Madrid.
With Earthquakes, Bradwolff Projects offers Watanabe a unique opportunity to present her work for the first time in a solo exhibition in the Netherlands. The serene dome space of the former chapel also creates an intriguing contrast with the perceptible threat in the video installation, and thus contributes to the alienating nature of the video installation.
Madelon van Schie (1982, the Netherlands) is an independent curator. She also works for the Defares Collection and the ProWinkoProArt Collection. She studied art history at the University of Leiden, the Free University in Amsterdam and at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires. In addition, she completed a research master’s degree in Latin America studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her interest in art that reflects on political violence and dictatorships led her to Watanabe, after which she continued to follow her in further developments.
The soundscape was made by sound artist OMFO (www.omfo.net).
 Andrea Wulf, “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World” (2015), p. 225. The quote is originally from Alexander von Humboldt’s travelogue. He wrote it after experiencing his first earthquake. That was on November 4, 1799, in Cumaná, Venezuela.
 Alexander von Humboldt, Kosmos: “A General Survey of Physical Phenomena of the Universe, Volume 1” (1845), p. 227. (Translation by Roos van der Lint)