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Samurai and Deer


Two-channel video installation







Taking as its launch point the trading network of the 17th century, this work traces the common commodity of deerskin through hyperconnections transcending time and space. Since European coinage was not popularly accepted in 17th-century Asia, the Dutch East India Company relied on instead of barter, for example trading Indonesian spices for Taiwanese deerskins, and then reselling large quantities of deer skins in Japan for silver, and finally using this silver as capital for further trade.


Deerskin was in high demand in Japan, as Edo-period samurai culture consumed large quantities in armour, accessories, and clothing. Yet after years of overhunting, Taiwan could not keep up with the demand for deerskins in Japan, and as such the Dutch East India Company searched for alternative sources, finally coming to Phnom Penh in Cambodia in an attempt to corner the deerskin market. As a result, they came into conflict with the Cambodian king, who launched a series of naval wars from 1643 to 1644 along the Mekong River to expel the Dutch East India Company, and in the end succeeding in their efforts.


The deerskin trade brought samurai culture, Dutch-Cambodian wars, and Taiwan into a complicated, interconnected relationship, which the artist has brought into the contemporary age. Videos shot in Cambodian and Japan include oral narratives from keepers at the Phnom Penh zoo, aerial footage of the Mekong River at the location where the Dutch and Cambodian armies fought, and modern-day cargo ships carrying gravel, as well as interview and handicraft footage from a Tokyo samurai armour workshop, internet imagery, and Google Maps data — use of the modern-day digital Internet of Things to peer into the colonial Network of Things.

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