The room I was using with my partner in the occupied embassy.
I am Toshie Takeuchi, a visual artist, filmmaker and art activity organiser. I grew up in Japan, until the age of 23, which is when I left to study photography in the UK. After living in London and Helsinki for 8 years, I moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 2010. Once I finished my study at the Audio-Visual department of Rietveld academy in 2011, I moved into the occupied embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – the community called Villa K, Stichting Centrum, where I spent more than 5 years until I again moved to Denmark, where I am currently based.
When I moved into the occupied embassy, I knew nothing about the Congo. I did not know of its history as a Belgium colony, nor the struggle of the country from the day of independence until this present day. I also did not think much about the continent of Africa as a whole, where I (Japanese) felt it far away from my daily reality. I’m embarrassed to acknowledge my ignorance. Whereas living in the modern society that is largely built upon the exploitation of the resources and the humans in the continent of Africa, I had long perceived it as “far away”.
Furthermore, I also knew nothing about the feat and striving of squatters and squatting activities in the Netherlands. After all, I often still wonder if I had the right to live in that house. I am not pertaining to the legal rights of squatters, but rather the ethical rights. I question, whether it was appropriate to use the space without acknowledging the struggles. While I so much loved the life in the community with creative and beautiful minds, I often pondered the many sides of this dilemma. We lived in the territory of the Congo with diplomatic immunity, which was the undeniable essential factor protecting us who resided at the embassy. Yet we hardly spoke about the Congo, unless it came to concerns about our rights to live there. I wondered how to articulate this distanced connection and sense of dislocation.
How can I relate to this space, its history and its presence? How can I relate to this community? The film ‘A House Placed in Between’ depicts the process of trial and error while demonstrating how to strengthen the relationship between one and one’s environment.
The research and production process of this project was far from easy. I was made to acknowledge that my curiosity, my investigation and the way I approached the subject brought not only inspiration to the community, but sadly also disturbances, stress and distrust to some of the people living there. The dilemma I had felt became as if my duty to shed light on the stories of the house which had not yet been shared among the community and the public.
I also acknowledge that some of the images and speech in the film could be considered as naive. However, I chose to present them in this way to show ambiguity and the troubling aspect of the space. I am unsure as to whether this film will offer any better space in the world we live in, where still today many people experience exploitation and denial of their pain regarding colonial pasts, racisma and discrimination. Yet, I still realised the film this way, in the hope that it can be taken as a magnifier for looking at one’s own environment. I hope that some people will be provoked by it. As one of the Congolese participants said during filming, “the situation of the embassy was just the tip of the iceberg.”
2021, Toshie Takeuchi