Giada Ripa’s ‘The Yokohama Project: 1867-2016’ – an imaginary conversation about Japan going back to the 19th century, between the artist and her ancestor Mathilde Ruinart de Brimont, along with the visual narrative of Felice Beato, as a part of exploring her family story and the western vision of this enigmatic country through the years.
The project is composed around 53 hand-coloured old photographs, views and historical notes about the city of Yokohama, its surroundings, Japan and the Japanese society. Their author is Felice Beato, an Italian, who in 1860 settled in Japan when it had just opened its doors to the western world. For over fifty years, until the early 20th century, Beato’s photographs were one of the principal source of collective imagery of the Far East. They were published into many travel books and newspapers, and ‘helped’ to shape the standard ‘Western’ notion about Asian society.
A few months later, the artist discovered “an unpublished manuscript of Mathilde Ruinart, and ancestor of mine, an artist and muse to several intellectuals, who left for the Orient in 1867, along with her diplomat husband, providing a vivid description of it. From her “Carnets de Voyage” and “Voyage au Japon” emerges the friendship with Felice Beato explaining how the album ended up in the house.”
With these two treasures in hand, Ripa decided to fly to Japan and go back in time making the same photographs “acting as the link between Beato’s images and the figure of Mathilde, following their respective footsteps and attempting, through my western prism, to identify local contemporary analogies, and convey 150 years later, the transformations of society and landscape in Yokohama and its surroundings.”