A Season of Contemporary Art from Japan

Entitled Engawa, this programme is based on the concept underlying the project by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma for the CAM – Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkian building. The term denotes a space of passage, both interior and exterior, typical of traditional Japanese houses.

Bringing together different collaborations with artists and cultural institutions in Lisbon, the season brings to the city a set of creators from Japan and the Japanese diaspora, many of them for the first time in Portugal.

The first moment of the season takes place in July 2023, the month in which CAM celebrates its 40th anniversary. In 2023, which also marks the 480th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Portugal and Japan, two more moments will be presented in September and November.

In 2024, the season returns for the reopening of the building, occupying several of its spaces and the garden with an intense programme of exhibitions, performances, concerts, poetry sessions, debates and other artistic practices.

Curated by Emmanuelle de Montgazon, with Rita Fabiana.

Kengo Kuma’s architectural project for the Centro de Arte Moderna refers to the Japanese concept of engawa [縁側], a transitional space in Japanese traditional houses considered neither inside nor outside. While the engawa of the traditional house so crucial in the films of Yasujiro Ozu is often forgotten today, it has recently been deployed to evoke multiple relational spaces out of the domestic space.

Engawa can thus be seen as a metaphor of the ‘in-between’, a concept that found a powerful echo in the 1980s between Japan and the Western world through the notion of ma [間]. This ‘in-between' facilitated a common dialogue between multidisciplinary artistic movements in Japan from the post-war period, during which a multitude of parallel histories emerged questioning the fiction of the official history that had constructed Japanese identity.

Engawa could be the tangible place for generations of the Heisei era (1989-2018), marked by the bursting of the economic bubble and the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake (1995), an era that represented a pivotal point in Japanese society. Its social and political consequences affected memories, myths and the weaving between the intimate and the communal. In the words of Timothy Morton, whose ‘ecological thought’ offers a frank rapprochement of structuralism and Buddhism notions, it is a question of 'observing what is changing before our eyes, slowly and collectively and how to share it with the other.'* This ecological thought finds a particularly strong echo in Japan. The mesh, its infinite connections and infinitesimal differences, finds its source in intimate space, in the so-called dividuality of the individual that can be translated by the multiplicity of the being corresponding to each of the relations it enters into (human or non-human). In other words, it led to the confrontation with multiple worlds so aptly described by Keiichiro Hirano.** It is therefore no coincidence that Edouard Glissant's ‘Tout-Monde' (‘Whole-World’) has had such an impact in Japan over the past twenty years. Archipelagic thinking offers the possibility of breaking out of the island deadlock and reaffirming a deeply composite culture in permanent metamorphosis. It welcomes subjective experience, redefines the question of identity and borders. It embraces the feminine, the vulnerable, the fragility, and the uncertain, broadening our perception of the world. From this area of ecological and digital interconnectivity emerged artistic practices inspired by a return to cultural notions of animism and their inclusion in a booming technological society that served as a support for the new generation that emerged after the Fukushima disaster, questioning the tangibility of our life as human beings.

The Japanese Season at CAM will present these topics through Time-based Art exhibitions, site-specific projects, and commissioned works and events. In a deep collaborative process with the multicultural context in Lisbon and Portugal, the Season aims to enlighten how the inter-relations between perception and emotion create other realities, articulated with embedded social and political situations to suggest powerful transformations.



* Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2010.

** Keiichiro Hirano, La dernière métamorphose. Paris: Philippe Picquier, 2007.


MA in Contemporary Art History, Emmanuelle de Montgazon works on open and transversal artistic approaches that unite different art forms, maintaining privileged links with Japan. Between 1997 and 2006 she was appointed cultural attaché at the French Embassy in Tokyo and New York. Since 2012 she has been Director of Ryoji Ikeda's Studio in Paris and Kyoto and Advisor to the Odawara Art Foundation, founded by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Rita Fabiana has been curating exhibitions and projects since 2006. In her curatorial practices, she examined participatory, cross-disciplines and experimental projects and practices where process of institutional relationship, memory/history, storytelling, identities and subjectivities are central. She joined the CAM team in 2011 as a curator and collection manager (sculpture and installation). She was head of programming at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum between 2016 and 2021. She is currently head of CAM’s Live Arts. She has a MA degree in Art History (Université Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne) and a postgraduate degree in Curatorial Studies (FBAUL).

November 2023

The third moment of the Japanese season takes place between 11 and 19 November, with an intervention by the collective Chim↑Pom from Smappa!Group (CPfSG) in the city of Lisbon.

Co-produced and co-hosted by the Gulbenkian Foundation and Alkantara, as part of the Alkantara Festival 2023, the project also has the collaboration of ETC Studio and Lisbon City Council.

Past Events

July 2023

The first moment of the season will run from 20 to 23 July 2023, the date on which the 40th anniversary of CAM – Centro de Arte Moderna Gulbenkians is celebrated. The season begins with three very distinct events: a moving installation, a concert, and an edible performance/landscape.

Presented at the Gulbenkian Foundation and in other spaces in the city of Lisbon, these three events feature the artistic collective 目[mé], the visual and sound artist Ryoji Ikeda (with the collaboration of the French ensemble Les Percussions de Strasbourg), and the artist Lei Saito, creator of the concept of ‘existential cuisine’.

September 2023

FluxFest, the second moment of Engawa, is a tribute to the Japanese participation in the international Fluxus movement, founded in the 1960s. Between 8 and 10 September, CAM proposes a series of performances, a documentary  and a conversation to be held at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

This weekend includes a tribute to composer Mieko Shiomi, a key figure in the development of Fluxus, and the participation of Christian Marclay, composer and visual artist, Ami Yamasaki, vocalist and multimedia artist, and shō player Ko Ishikawa.


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