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  • Fukushima radioactive zone international exhibition

Remember Fukushima: Radioactive Exhibition Our Grandchildren Might Not Even Get To See

July 24, 2015
Anika Dačić graduated in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade and is currently pursuing MA in Literary and Cultural Studies. Her interests lie in social and cultural aspects of contemporary art production and she especially enjoys writing about street and urban art. Likes to knit, play adventure video games and host quiz nights at a local bar.

Once more the power of art to make a social change is at question. Clearly through history art had a way of addressing major social and political concerns by confronting the observers with the visual representation of their dilemmas and anxieties. But what can art achieve if it stays hidden from the view of the public? Don’t follow the wind is the recent art exhibition gathering international and Japanese artists happening in Fukushima, Japan, in an evacuated area near the Daiichi Nuclear Power plant contaminated after the nuclear incident in 2011. This deserted, highly radioactive and restricted area is the home of the art exhibition that nobody is able to see, and will not be allowed to see for decades to come. So, what is the point of this artistic endeavor, you may ask, and what are these artists trying to achieve?

Fukushima radioactive zone international exhibition
Fukushima Daiichi – Photo via Abode of Chaos/Flickr

The Radioactive Exhibition in Fukushima

As you probably know, the major 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, triggered the release of the radioactive isotopes from the Daiichi Nuclear Power plant, and the Japanese government evacuated the 20 km zone surrounding the object immediately after the incident. As many health reports tell us the incident was quickly and well-managed, and, as a result, there were no casualties compared to the victims of the earthquake itself, and radiation concerns are rather psychological affecting the psychosomatic state of the residents with behavioral changes as an outcome. But let’s talk about exhibition. If the reports of health organizations are true, and the radiation leak is not expected to result in a major increase in cancer rate then is the problem these artists are addressing in works ‘on display’ in Fukushima over exaggerated? Well, we don’t know clearly, and probably won’t be able to find out in the recent future. The exhibition is closed giving the circumstances, but the artists and the curators are ensuring us that it will last until it is officially open to the visitors and residents back in their homes.

Fukushima radioactive zone international exhibition
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is briefed about tanks containing radioactive water by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant chief Akira Ono in front of two tanks which are being dismantled after leaking contaminated water – Photo via Observer

Don’t Follow the Wind Because You Can’t Anyway

By now you are intrigued, curious and you want to find out more? Probably the first thing that comes to mind is to look for an official preview on the exhibition website. Well, we already did that and guess what?, it is as blank as the exhibition is invisible, with the exception of an audio statement announcing the exhibition in the far future. The initiative for the exhibition came from the Japanese art collective Chim Pom whose works will be exhibited along with artworks of notable international and Japanese artists like: Ai Weiwei, Miyanaga Aiko, Taryn Simon, Meiro Koizumi, Takekawa Nobuaki, Ahmet Öğüt and Trevor Paglen. These artists are addressing the shared concerns about the effects of the radiation, use of atomic energy and nuclear power, possibly through the post-apocalyptic imagery. But why in this way? There are several other artistic projects exploring the same subject of natural disaster caused by the earthquake and radiation contamination in Fukushima, some of them being Eiko’s A Body in Fukushima performance and photography series and also recently closed exhibition Fukushima to Vancouver at Regent College Lookout Gallery in Vancouver. So who has the power to approach the intended recipients of the message?

Fukushima radioactive zone international exhibition
Eiko – A Body in Fukushima, 2014 – Courtesy of the artist

Fukushima: Art and Environment

Art projects inspired by Fukushima only confirm the importance of environmental problems that are currently the most serious issues on a global level. The future of our life on this planet is at stake and artists tend to question this subject more than ever before. But the main question here is – can you really implement change and affect the rise in environmental awareness by not putting your art on display? If the aim of the Don’t follow the Winds is to raise awareness of the public than is this goal missed by hiding the artworks from the spectators. In the present situation we cannot help but wonder if this recent project is just another attention-seeking, pure l’art pour l’art initiative or does it really have the power to affect the ways people think and feel about their environment.

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Featured image: Radiation Hotspot in Kashiwa – photo via Wikipedia

All images used for illustrative purposes only.