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

 

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