DCN 3 – Iris van Herpen: Technology and craft entwined

I have to eat the words from the last blog post. As the long silence on the blog front indicates, the weeks of blissful procrastination have come to an end. I’m cracking on with work.

After a series of midnight interviews and assessments, I have finally joined the ranks of the slowmads – also known as remote workers. Next week I will start with a part-time gig. This will provide me with a steady income from the comfort of my desk, two dorky cats and a pot of tea within easy reach. Or I could be working from a Thai beach cabin, or from a café in Amsterdam – Covid-19 travel restrictions permitting.

DCN 3 – Iris van Herpen

Last week I traveled to Kunming, for the first time in about three months. I went on the sly, without announcing my return. Every chance encounter with friends was a happy surprise. I didn’t have much time to socialize as I was busy preparing for the first of a brand new series of Dutch Culture Nights – a screening of three videos that showed the mesmerizing work of Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen.

Iris van Herpen at work

At the previous DCN pilots I did a brief intro and then let the film speak for itself, followed by a brief Q&A with the audience.

This time I prepared a much longer speech. I introduced the work of Iris van Herpen, with for instance her inspirator Thierry Bornier – a Kunming-based French photographer who has created stunning images of the Yuanyang rice terraces.

I explained how her strength lies in collaborations with for instance the Delft Technical University and the Dutch National Ballet – blurring the lines between art and science as well as between different cultural disciplines. This is ultimately what makes her work unique – her creations far transcend the usual boundaries of fashion.

Netherlands Cultural Institute Online

During the events, I furthermore introduced the Netherlands Cultural Institute Online (NCIO) to the audience.

NCIO is an initiative from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in China, in partnership with Tencent Art – together they present the largest online showcase of Dutch arts and culture in China.

Since actual human exchanges between China and the Netherlands cannot take place in these travel-restricted times of Covid-19 – apart from these film screenings, or talks by Dutch artists who are already living and working in China – NCIO was launched in December 2020, presenting more than seventy exclusive art programs from the Netherlands.

Many of the programs showcase Dutch-Chinese collaborations – representing a strong connection between artists from the Netherlands and China: both reviving the past and creating for a brighter future. By presenting content focused on cultural exchange, NCIO will provide a platform for further exchange between China and the Netherlands not only offline but also online. In so doing, stimulating more dialogue and collaboration between the two unique cultures.

Venues and audience

The program was to be shown in Wheatfield Bookstore in Kunming, Dali Art Factory and the Linden Centre in Xizhou. As I am a one-woman show it’s great to have a good collaboration with the management and staff of these three lovely venues, as well as the expert assistance from Chinese translators and presenters. The three locations have somewhat different audiences, and each screening gets a different kind of discussion afterwards.

Wheatfield is a bit alternative, the kind of bookstore you could find in Europe. The place is filled with retro rock ‘n’ roll and French film noir posters, you can buy a beer and find the resident kitten asleep on top of a pile of books. The people who have been coming to the DCN events here have been mostly artists, art and design students and writers.

Dali Art Factory is a sprawling former factory complex in the middle of Dali Old Town that contains multitudes – shops, a brewery, a master ceramicist gallery, a climbing wall and a photography museum, amongst others. It attracts a lot of creative youngsters who move to Dali in search of a different lifestyle.

The Linden Centre is a boutique hotel in a historical villa that serves an upmarket clientele with a taste for culture. This evening a local grafiti artist came and showed his work to me.

These events are great for meeting lots of interesting new people – making new connections and plans for future events and collaborations.


The best part of the DCN evening is always afterwards. Usually, there are questions or remarks from the audience. Sometimes, people come to me afterwards to talk to me in person instead of standing up in a room full of people.

One of the fashion designers present at Wheatfield bookstore came with an impassioned remark:

“Her work has no tradition, no culture”

It is true that her work looks at the future and not the past.

A Yizu minority mother and son designer duo appreciated her work, even though their own creations were entirely based on vintage Chinese minority dress.

In Dali Art Factory I got more questions about my events in general – why am I presenting Dutch culture? I tell them I like to see intercultural dialogue. A way to build bridges between two countries I love, China and the Netherlands. The Iris van Herpen videos I shared included Chinese runway models and a solo by a Chinese Dutch National Ballet dancer. This was appreciated by some in the audience as cultural exchange happening both ways between the two countries.

The last screening was in the Linden Centre, and here I could relax a bit. Some people showed up late and we watched the three videos again. I got some questions about the Yuanyang rice terraces – how were they made visible in the garments? But also about the technology – how did she create these impossibly soft fabrics that move so organically?

To answer that last question is to know where the title of this series of DCN screenings came from – Technology and craft entwined.

1 thought on “DCN 3 – Iris van Herpen: Technology and craft entwined

  1. Henk van der Zanden Reply

    I think i can reply to you Vera.
    I am interested in the different things that happen in your China. You activities seldom reach our country.

    Groten Henk

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