Celebrating the opening of Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla

Yutaka Kobayashi with his new work 'Absorption Ripples - Melt down melt away' 2015 Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media, at RMIT Gallery for the exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla.

Yutaka Kobayashi with his new work ‘Absorption Ripples – Melt down melt away’ 2015
Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media,
at RMIT Gallery for the exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla. Photo by Evelyn Tsitas

Tonight at RMIT Gallery we celebrate the work of six contemporary Japanese and Japanese-Australian artists:

– Yutaka Kobayashi

– Ichi Ikeda

– Manabu Ikeda

– Takashi Kuribayashi

– Finger Pointing Worker

– And the collaboration of  Ken and Julia Yonetani.

All of the artworks, in their diverse ways, represent imaginative responses to the terrible tsunami of March/2011 and the subsequent meltdown of nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Yutaka Kobayashi’s installation work titled Absorption Ripples – Melt down melt away, is a new work commissioned for the exhibition, which, with quiet, poetic power, speaks to our tendency to forget or ignore the immediate and long term impact of nuclear accidents on land and  in the oceans.

Yutaka is a Japanese environmental artist currently based in Australia on an 18 month residency. The frequently participative outreach component of his art extends his ecological messages into the larger contexts of community. Kobayashi’s installation Absorption Ripples is inspired by the idea of how quickly people forget about great disasters and can get distracted.

Curator Linda Williams explains that the full ecological impact of radioactive material released into the Pacific Ocean after 3/11 is still not fully understood. The work in sand by Yutaka Kobayashi in this exhibition foregrounds this open-ended question as waves seem to ripple outwards from Japan into the Pacific Ocean and beyond, their effects still uncharted.

“This is such a powerful work, and in it we see similarities to Japanese traditions such as Japanese Zen gardens where monks would patiently rake around rocks. Rocks are thought of as beautiful for the Japanese quality of wabi sabi, perfection in imperfection,” Associate Professor William said.

“In the work, where you see the outline of Japan in the rocks, and the force lines of the gravel radiating out from the island itself – it evokes a kind of reverse impact of the Tsunami itself…seeing the incursion of the ocean onto the land.”

Ken + Julia YONETANI Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012 Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component 44 x 44 x 44 cm

Ken + Julia YONETANI
Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012
Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component
44 x 44 x 44 cm. Photo by Evelyn Tsitas

Works range from the faux chandeliers of the Yonetani’s with their green, glowing uranium glass named after two uranium utilising nations, Hungary and South Africa; to the confronting accusatory gesture of the anonymous Finger Pointing Worker in front of the Fukushima reactor (this work went viral on YouTube); to the the meticulous drawing of nature’s revenge over a nuclear reactor chimney by artist  Manabu Ikeda, and a new work commissioned for the exhibition by Ichi Ikeda, a Osaka-born artist whose art serves as an inspirational focal point for the exchange of water-related information, as part of the series of the works he has been doing on walks for peace (Time Shelter: Walk Together for Peace! 2015, an Installation with photographs by Tatsuro Kodama).

The exhibition is a current example of how RMIT Gallery has explored the contemporary relevance of global environmental issues with ground breaking exhibitions on this theme such as HEAT: Art & Climate Change (2008) which was the first exhibition of its kind in Australia, and 2112: Imagining the Future (2011) – exhibitions also curated by Associate professor Linda Williams, with Suzanne Davies, Director and Chief Curator of RMIT Gallery, and RMIT Gallery staff.

With this exhibition, RMIT Gallery has expanded and transformed an aspect of research undertaken by the curator, Assoc. Prof Linda Williams for an ARC Linkage project; Spatial Dialogues: Art & Climate Change which developed international dialogues between artists and cultural theorists on the material and cultural significance of water in three cities of the Asia-Pacific region : Melbourne, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Curator Linda Williams talking about a new work in japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla, by Ichi Ikeda, Time Shelter: Walk Together for Peace! 2015  Installation with photographs by Tatsuro Kodama

Curator Linda Williams talking about a new work in Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla, by Ichi Ikeda, Time Shelter: Walk Together for Peace! 2015
Installation with photographs by Tatsuro Kodama. Photo by Evelyn Tsitas

From this, a new research project has developed examining the invisible forms of pollution now affecting the world’s oceans such as ocean acidification, the nano-fragmentation of micro-plastics, mercury poisoning and the insidious affects of ocean warming. Whilst such issues are being intensively investigated by scientists, so far they have been marginal to discourses in the arts and humanities. This is about to change.

There is much to reflect on in this exhibition. One might observe that, Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla is yet another initiative by RMIT Gallery which is a global first.

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla – 27 March – 30 May at RMIT Gallery.

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla

Ken + Julia YONETANI Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012  Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component 44 x 44 x 44 cm

Ken + Julia Yonetani
Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012
Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component
Installation image at RMIT Gallery by Evelyn Tsitas

Associate Professor Linda Williams will give a talk about climate change – a curator’s response, to celebrate Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla on Wednesday March 25 from 12.30 – 1.30 pm.

  • Activity: Linda Williams curator talk:
  • Date: Wednesday 25 March
  • Time: 12.30-1.30 pm
  • Location: RMIT Gallery 344 Swanston Street Melbourne.
  • Free: Bookings (03) 9925 1717

The exhibition looks at the ways in which Japanese artists respond to the events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 and its environmental implications.

The exhibition is the latest example of how RMIT Gallery has explored the contemporary relevance of global environmental issues with ground breaking exhibitions on this theme such as HEAT: Art & Climate Change (2008) which was the first exhibition of its kind in Australia, and 2112: Imagining the Future (2011). These exhibitions were also co-curated by Linda Williams and RMIT Gallery.

Ken + Julia YONETANI Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012 Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component 44 x 44 x 44 cm

Ken + Julia Yonetani
Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012
Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component
Installation image at RMIT Gallery by Evelyn Tsitas

The massive radioactive monster Godzilla looms large in popular culture, originating in a series of live action Japanese (tokusatsu) films in the 1950s, where it emerged from the sea to destroy Japanese cities, leaving radioactive footprints in his wake. The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were fresh in the Japanese consciousness and the character was seen as a metaphor for nuclear weapons.

The events of 1945 also had a profound impact on the Japanese imagination, especially with the terror of invisible radioactive contamination that led to the creation of many thousands of hibakusha: people poisoned by exposure to radiation.

Ken + Julia YONETANI Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012  Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component 44 x 44 x 44 cm

Ken + Julia Yonetani
Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (Hungary), 2012
Antique chandelier frame, uranium, glass beads, wire, UV light bulbs and electric component. Installation image at RMIT Gallery by Evelyn Tsitas 

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when a tsunami tore through the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the potent image of Godzilla and his anti-nuclear subtext again forces people to question nuclear power.

At 2.45 pm in March 2011, a different kind of disaster struck Japan when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the Northwest coast triggered a massive tsunami that reached over 40 metres in places as it smashed its way inland for up to 10 kilometres. The tsunami also damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing explosions and melting the cores of 3 nuclear reactors. The exclusion zone first established by the government at 20 kilometres from the plant was later extended as high levels of radiation were recorded on land and in the sea, again reigniting memories of the invisible threat of radioactive contamination.

Yutaka KOBAYASHI Absorption Ripples - Melt down melt away 2015 Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media

Yutaka Kobayashi
Absorption Ripples – Melt down melt away 2015
Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media. Installation image at RMIT Gallery by Evelyn Tsitas

After the tsunami of 3/11, Godzilla emerged once again from the ocean in a film by Gareth Edwards in 2014, though this exhibition presents a very different range of reflections on the events at Fukushima. Nonetheless, these artworks are also shaped by memories of an event that occurred over 65 years before the tsunami of 2011, as contemporary artists give visual form to the deadly invisible poison of radioactive contaminants to raise questions about the uses of nuclear power as a benign source of energy.

Artists involved:

  • Ichi Ikeda, a Osaka-born artist whose art serves as an inspirational focal point for the exchange of water-related information. He has dedicated the majority of his prolific career to raising global awareness around water issues and conservation through both large and small-scale interventions.
  • Manabu Ikeda, a Japanese artist who lives and works in Wisconsin, USA, whose massive, intricate drawings are influenced by the natural world and can take up to a year to complete. His recent work focused on the turmoil of the 2011 earthquake that hit Japan.
  • Yutaka Kobayashi, a Japanese environmental artist currently based in Australia on an 18 month residency. The frequently participative outreach component of his art extends his ecological messages into the larger contexts of community. Kobayashi’s installation Absorption Ripple is inspired by the idea of how quickly people forget about great disasters and can get distracted.
  • Takashi Kuribayashi, a highly acclaimed Japanese artist whose range of environmental artworks offer an immersive experience of imagined ecologies, using the affective qualities of water as a channel to reimagining not only local ecologies, but also their interconnectedness with regional and global space.
  • Finger Pointing Worker: is an anonymous artist who appeared on a live-to-air webcam and pointed an accusatory finger directly towards a monitoring live camera in Fukushima to show that clear visual imagery in the public domain can sway the communal consciousness.
  •  Ken and Julia Yonetani, artists with an interesting Australia / Japanese creative partnership, exploring the interaction between humans, nature and science.
Yutaka KOBAYASHI at RMIT Gallery, working on his piece Absorption Ripples - Melt down melt away 2015 Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media. Image by Evelyn Tsitas

Yutaka Kobayashi at RMIT Gallery, working on his piece Absorption Ripples – Melt down melt away 2015
Zeolite, Lichen and mixed media. Image by Evelyn Tsitas

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla runs from 20 March to 30 May 2015, and is is part of the Art + Climate = Change 2015 festival celebrating and identifying Australian and international artists working with environmental ideas.

Upcoming talk:

  • Activity: Linda Williams curator talk:
  • Date: Wednesday 25 March
  • Time: 12.30-1.30 pm
  • Location: RMIT Gallery 344 Swanston Street Melbourne.
  • Free: Bookings (03) 9925 1717

 

Three RMIT Gallery exhibitions opening 26 March 6-8 pm

 

RMIT Gallery official opens the exhibitions Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla, Unfolding: New Indian Textiles and Backs of Banaras on Thursday 26 March from 6-8 pm.

The gallery will also be showcasing a series of free artist and curator talks as part of the opening week.

Artist Yutaka Kobayashi at work at RMIT Gallery on his installation 'Absorption Ripples' for RMIT Gallery's exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla - official opening 6-8 pm Thursday 26 March 2015.

Artist Yutaka Kobayashi at work at RMIT Gallery on his installation ‘Absorption Ripples’ for RMIT Gallery’s exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla – official opening 6-8 pm Thursday 26 March 2015. Image Evelyn Tsitas

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla – Curator talk

Associate Professor Linda Williams will give a talk about climate change – a curator’s response, to celebrate Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla (26 March – 30 May) in which Japanese artists respond to the events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 and its environmental implications.

Title: Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla – curator’s talk

Date: Wednesday 25 March

Time: 12.30-1.30 pm

Venue: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street Melbourne

Bookings: (free) (03) 9925 1717

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Unfolding: New Indian Textiles – curator and artist talk

At visual artist Parul Thaker's workshop in India. Image: Helen Rayment

At visual artist Parul Thaker’s workshop in India. Image: Helen Rayment

Curator Maggie Baxter’s exhibition showcases contemporary Indian textile designers and artists. She will talk about the reinvention of traditional textiles within the wider context of international art and fashion with Indian designers Himanshu Dogra (Play Clan), Parul Thaker (visual artist) and Bappaditya Biswas (bai lou).

Title: Unfolding: New Indian Textiles – curator and artist talk (26 March – 30 May)

Date: Friday 27 March

Time: – 12.30 – 2 pm

Venue: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street Melbourne

Bookings: (free) (03) 9925 1717

Backs of Banaras

This curated selection of anonymous portraits from The Banaras Back Book, taken along the banks of the river Ganges in Varanasi, provides a strangely impersonal view of private moments of contemplation or indifference.

It is also a visual essay in the textiles of the everyday and conveys much of the cultural wealth and contradiction that is contemporary India. Terry Burrows is a Research Affiliate of Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney.

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Inspired by India – two new exhibitions to open at RMIT Gallery

Photographer Terry Burrows will be giving an artist talk on Friday 20 March 2015, 12.30-1.30 pm at RMIT Gallery.

Photographer Terry Burrows will be giving an artist talk on Friday 20 March, 12.30-1.30 pm at RMIT Gallery.

RMIT Gallery throws open its doors to the public with two new exhibitions inspired by India with the official opening on Thursday 26 march from 6-8 pm. The exhibitions – Backs of Banaras and Unfolding: New Indian Textiles will run until 30 May, and be officially opened from 6-8 pm on Thursday 26 March with an address by Ms Manika Jain, Acting High Commissioner of India.

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Backs of Banaras

Banaras is known as the city of Shiva, one of India’s most revered sites of Hindu ritual. In this exhibition, Sydney based photographer Terry Burrows captures the cultural wealth and contradiction that is contemporary India. Selected from the complete series of 1008 photographs (an auspicious number for Hindus) that feature in his The Banaras Back Book, this parade of backs, mostly male and strangely impersonal, conveys much of the cultural wealth and contradiction that is contemporary India.

The subjects are draped in their personal cloth and form a visual essay in the textiles of the everyday. These photographs were taken during a five-month residency that Burrows completed in Varanasi in 2010/11. The contrast of traditional religious ritual amidst contemporary street life is intriguing and Burrows argues it is portrayed particularly prominently with Hinduism.

Terry Burrows will be giving a talk about his photographic practice and on photographing in India on Friday 20 March from 12.30-1.30 pm. Bookings RMIT Gallery (03) 9925 1717.

Who should be photographed – how and why? Terry will explore the politics of photographing a subject ‘by stealth’. Should an artist get permission – or not? Is photographing someone’s back the same as their face? Is it different in a country like India – especially if you are a Western photographer? A fascinating insight into a complex issue about rights and responsibilities of an artist to coincide with his exhibition.

Unfolding: New Indian Textiles

Image courtesy of Play Clan

Image courtesy of Play Clan

Indian textile designers are the envy of the rest of the world because they continue to have close, easy contact with all manner of hand production and crafts no longer available elsewhere.

This vibrant new exhibition places contemporary Indian textile designers and artists within the wider context of international art and fashion and examines the reinvention of traditional textiles through the sari, uncut cloth, street wear as well as textiles and fibre as contemporary art.

Unfolding: New Indian Textiles has been developed by independent curator, public art coordinator and artist Maggie Baxter to coincide with her new book on contemporary Indian textiles. Ms Baxter has travelled to India for more than two decades, where she has worked with traditional crafts in the Kutch region of North West India since 1990. The Indian village remains a constant presence in textile production terms of tradition and subject matter, drawing extensively on the daily life and popular culture of villages and marketplaces.

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Volunteering at RMIT Gallery

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Volunteering at RMIT Gallery is a wonderful way to take that first step towards a career in museums, arts management or events. This week, we say farewell to George, one of our longest serving volunteers, as he takes up an internship in Germany in the next few weeks.

University students who volunteer their time to work shifts and opening events and public programs at RMIT Gallery are a vital and much appreciated resource. So it is with fondness and a touch of sadness that we say goodbye to George after several years. Of course, we had a special ‘sweet’ send off with cupcakes – something of a RMIT Gallery tradition as a way of saying ‘thanks’.

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George has just completed a double degree at RMIT in electrical engineering and commerce, and is a good example of the fact that you don’t need to be studying art to be part of the gallery’s ‘extended family’ – we welcome all enthusiastic students, as the gallery relies on a diverse skill set.

RMIT Gallery’s volunteer program provides motivated individuals with the opportunity to gain an understanding of arts administration and the day to day management of contemporary art galleries.

We are interested in applications from volunteers with a diverse range of skills. Knowledge of art is helpful, but not essential.

We require well presented, outgoing people, capable of multitasking, with excellent communication skills. Full induction and training will be provided to suitable applicants. Working at RMIT Gallery provides volunteers with the chance to enhance their resume and showcase their capabilities and enthusiasm to future employers. We have many overseas students and also students from other universities, as well as many post graduate students who are looking to improve their industry knowledge as they gain high level research skills in the arts.

Volunteers check out Peter Ellis' 2013 exhibition 'A head in a Hive of Bees' at RMIT Gallery. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy.

Volunteers at Peter Ellis’ 2013 exhibition ‘A Head in a Hive of Bees’ at RMIT Gallery. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy.

Our program is open to a variety of applicants:

  • Internships: suited to those completing a tertiary degree in arts management, curatorship, education, public relations, communications or business administration. Interns will undertake a full or part-time volunteer placement at the gallery for a set period, completing an appointed project or series of related tasks.
  • Work experience: suited to secondary school students who wish to gain a week or fortnight’s experience, working on light administrative tasks, reception and exhibition research. Places per year are limited.
  • Regular volunteers: those able to donate their time on a regular weekly basis will be able to undertake gallery sitting, reception, and wide variety of administrative and research tasks.

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  • Event staff: RMIT Gallery offers a range of public programs and exhibition openings throughout the year that require staff to serve food and drinks, and assist in various aspects of the function. These are a great opportunity to meet artists, curators and other members of the arts community and gain first hand experience in event management.
Opening night 'Only from The Heart can You Touch The Sky' at RMIT Gallery 12 April - 4 June 2012.

Opening night ‘Only from The Heart can You Touch The Sky’ at RMIT Gallery 12 April – 4 June 2012.

George says that his favourite exhibition and opening was the 2012 contemporary Persian exhibition “Only From the Heart Can You Touch the Sky” which showcased Afghanistan art and culture – and the wonderful Afghan Tea Cart – as well as an opening night full of music, dancing and warmth.

Afghan Tea Cart delighted audiences at the public programs for the 2012 exhibition 'Only From The Heart can You Touch The Sky' at RMIT Gallery.

Afghan Tea Cart delighted audiences at the public programs for the 2012 exhibition ‘Only From The Heart can You Touch The Sky’ at RMIT Gallery.

Good luck with your future career, George! Thanks for your help and we are pleased you take some wonderful memories of exhibitions and art events with you into your future journey.

To become a volunteer at RMIT Gallery, please forward a current CV, or any queries to:

rmit.gallery@rmit.edu.au