Art as a Healing Process: Ken + Julia Yonetani at RMIT Gallery

Ken and Julia Yonetani under their 'Crystal Palace' chandelier at RMIT Gallery in the exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Ken and Julia Yonetani under their ‘Crystal Palace’ chandelier at RMIT Gallery in the exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

“We consider our works as a kind of healing process,” Ken + Julia Yonetani.

The large audience that gathered at RMIT Gallery on 26 May for the talk by artists Ken and Julia Yonetani ranged in age from school groups to art scene stalwarts and those with a strong interest in environmental issues. They were interested in the compelling narrative of the collaborative duos works which focus on environmental issues through a highly poetic aesthetic.

The Yonetanis work in the RMIT Gallery exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla (until 30 May), comprises of a disturbingly beautiful sign that glows with the word ‘radioactive’ and two beguilingly beautiful chandeliers from a larger installation of 31 works entitled ‘Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations’ (2013).

Julia and Ken Yonetani at RMIT Gallery for their artist talk on May 26. Works behind them are from the exhibition

Julia and Ken Yonetani at RMIT Gallery for their artist talk on May 26. Works behind them are from the exhibition “Terry Burrows – Backs of Banaras’. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Presented in a black room at RMIT Gallery, the two chandeliers are theatrical but eerie, emitting a compelling green glow. One question from a member of the audience upon hearing that these reconstructed light fittings were made from depleted uranium crystal was – ‘where do you source such a thing?’ Forget all the James Bond movies you have seen – the answer, as Julia told a bemused group, was the Internet.

“Of course!” added Ken. “Where we all buy everything! It’s no secret – you can get the uranium crystals on the Internet.”

Ken and Julia Yonetani under the 'Crystal Palace' chandelier made from depleted uranium crystal and sourced from the Internet. Photo: Evelyn tsitas

Ken and Julia Yonetani under the ‘Crystal Palace’ chandelier made from depleted uranium crystal and sourced from the Internet. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Harder to find, obviously are ideas – specifically, as one person in the audience observed – ‘how do you convey complex ideas about the environment, such as radioactivity and salinity, in artworks?”

Of course, that is a question for audiences to ponder and artists to execute. Some inkling of the combination of skills both ken and Julia bring to their artistic collaborations can be seen in their resumes – Ken Yonetani received a Bachelor of Economics in Japan and worked in the Foreign Exchange Market in Tokyo for three years, in a highly stressful job. Following this, he was an assistant for pottery master, Toshio Kinjo, oldest son of Jiro Kinjo a National Living Treasure of Japan, and then he completed his M.A. at The Australian National University School of Art in 2005.

Julia Yonetani brings to their art her background also as a writer, and researcher, and she holds a PhD from the Australian National University. Julia has held positions lecturing and researching in History, Cultural Studies, and Art Theory at the University of New South Wales, Western Sydney University and the University of the Ryukyus, Japan.

A slide of Ken Yonetani's Geiger counter which he used while on a research trip around the top end of Australia with Julia Yonetani - the hand held device is capable of detecting ionizing radiation. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

A slide of Ken Yonetani’s Geiger counter which he used while on a research trip around the top end of Australia with Julia Yonetani – the hand held device is capable of detecting ionizing radiation. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Perhaps in this powerful combination of an affinity and skill in research, writing, an eye to the marketplace and intense art training that the ability to convey complex ideas visually is manifested in their work. then again, perhaps it does the artists – any artists – a disservice to pry to hard into the Petri dish of inspiration and artistic imagination that conjures up art.

In a fascinating essay by Melanie Pollock their first book “Ken + Julia Yonetani” they explain “our motivation is not necessarily to motivate other people, but to express our own anxieties about the environment. We consider our works as a kind of healing process, which ultimately is very personal.”

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Art After Fukushima: Ken and Julia Yonetani to speak at RMIT Gallery 26 May

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla - RMIT Gallery 20 March- 30 May 2015. Installation image of work by Ken and Julia Yonetani by Mark Ashkanasy.

Installation image of work by Ken and Julia Yonetani by Mark Ashkanasy, RMIT Gallery, 2015.

Artists Ken and Julia Yonetani’s eerie light display is part of the Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla (20 March – 30 May) exhibition at RMIT Gallery. The artists will be making a special visit from Japan to RMIT Gallery to talk about their work in the exhibition, which has captivated audiences.

Their stunning works use vintage uranium glass borosilicate tubing and emit a green, unnatural glow which is made by the uranium reacting to a UV bulb. 

RMIT Gallery 20 Mar 2015 - 30 May 2015 Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla

RMIT Gallery
20 Mar 2015 – 30 May 2015
Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla. Photo: Mark Ashkanasy, RMIT Gallery, 2015

Renowned art critic Robert Nelson (The Age, SMH) wrote at length about the poetic qualities in the Yonetani’s work on May 19, and called the exhibition, curated by Linda Williams, “collected and thoughtful”, praising its relevance to the environmental themes presented in the thought provoking festival, Art + Climate = Change, which gathers local and international artists working with environmental ideas.

Ken + Julia Yonetani are an Australian / Japanese creative partnership whose work explores the interaction between humans, nature, science and the spiritual realm in the contemporary age.

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 Evelyn Tsitas

Conceived in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, the work is comprised of 31 chandeliers. Antique chandelier frames have been refitted with uranium glass and UV lighting; once switched on, the UV bulbs cause the glass beads to glow with a haunting green. The pieces signal the 31 nuclear nations of the world, in the RMIT Gallery exhibition, Hungary and South Africa.

The size of each chandelier corresponds to the number of operating nuclear plants in each nation. The overarching title of the work references the grandiose building designed for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, hinting at the tension between human ambition, technological development and its costs and consequences.

Ken and Julia Yonetani will talk about the unusual materials they use in their works, such as uranium glass to provide thought-provoking contemporary installations.

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 Evelyn Tsitas

As Ken Yonetani explained to artradarjournal.com (16/01/2015) about working with uranium glass (which is slightly radioactive) in the chandeliers – two of which are on display at RMIT Gallery; “Some specialists say it is safe for our health, but we wanted to work quickly to finish the installation…the number of chandeliers we had to do was 31 and it took two years. We are still alive!”

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla is part of the Art + Climate = Change 2015 Festival presented by Climarte: Arts for a Safe Climate, celebrating and identifying Australian and international artists working with environmental ideas.

This exhibition focuses focus on the work of six contemporary Japanese and Japanese-Australian artists responding to the events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 and its environmental implications; Yutaka Kobayashi; Ichi Ikeda; Manabu Ikeda; Takashi Kuribayashi; Finger Pointing Worker; and the collaboration of  Ken and Julia Yonetani.

What: Ken and Julia Yonetani – Artist floor talk

Date: Tuesday 26 May

Time: 12.30 – 1.30 pm

Venue: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street Melbourne

Bookings: Free. Bookings (03) 9925 1717

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Who Speaks for the Earth?: Energy, Politics and Art Forum at Deakin Edge, Federation Square on 7 May


Thursday 7 May, 6:00 PM:  Who Speaks for the Earth?:  Energy, Politics and Art. Bookings and information.climarte-910x450_0

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla - RMIT Gallery 20 March- 30 May 2015. Installation image of work by Ken and Julia Yonetani by Mark Ashkanasy.

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla – RMIT Gallery 20 March- 30 May 2015. Installation image of work by Ken and Julia Yonetani by Mark Ashkanasy.

A public forum about how climate change and environmental risks are represented from different positions in the arts, politics and in debates on nuclear energy. Follow the discussion throughout the night: #earthspeaks2015

An RMIT Gallery and ART + CLIMATE = CHANGE 2015 Festival event presented by CLIMARTE, in conjunction with the AEGIS Research Network. AEGIS is a network of artists and scholars focused on the question of how the arts and humanities can respond to natural history and the global problems of climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Kindly supported by Melbourne Conversations, the City of Melbourne’s program of free talks.

Speakers:

Chair: Associate Professor Linda Williams, RMIT University (curator of the exhibition Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla at RMIT Gallery 20 March – 30 May).

Dr Helen Caldicott (Author and environmental activist) will speak on how conflicting interests are represented in public debates on nuclear power.

William L. Fox (Author, Nevada Center for Art + Environment) will talk about the age of the Anthropocene and its cultural representation.

Associate Professor Peter Christoff (University of Melbourne) is a political scientist, teaching and researching climate policy and environmental policy. He will speak on how the issue of climate change is addressed in politics.

Professor Kate Rigby (Monash University) will focus on how writers and philosophers are responding to the issue.

David Buckland (Cape Farewell) will speak about how the Cape Farewell Project has enabled artists and people from other fields to interpret climate change.

 Event sponsored by:

Melbourne Conversations, the City Of Melbourne’s Program of free talks
Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla, RMIT Gallery 20 Mar 2015 - 30 May 2015. Image - Mark Ashkanasy

Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla, RMIT Gallery
20 Mar 2015 – 30 May 2015. Image – Mark Ashkanasy

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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