A Body in Fukushima
photo by William Johnston

A Body in Fukushima (2014)

A Body in Fukushima, a series of photographs, is the collaborative work between Eiko and Japanese historian and photographer William Johnston. Eiko and Johnston met in 2005 and, prior to this artistic collaboration,  had co-taught  courses in Wesleyan University on the atomic bombings and mountaintop removal mining.

Eiko first conceived photo project A Body in Fukushima as a part of her fist solo project  A Body in Places, which began with 12 hour-durational performances of A Body in Station at 30th Street Amtrak train station in Philadelphia in October 2014. To make a strong contrast to this majestic and busy Philadelphia station, Eiko thought about going to Fukushima she had previously visited alone in 2011 soon after earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns hit the area.  She invited Johnston to collaborate. 

In 2014,  Eiko and Johnston made two extended visits to the irradiated areas surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, where all residents had been evacuated. Only shortly before their visit in January, had people been allowed to visit these radiation-damaged areas, where access was limited to daylight hours only.

Following the abandoned train lines, Eiko and Johnston visited the empty stations and their neighborhoods, places that formerly bustled with life and people. Over three years since the initial disaster occurred, the buildings hit by the tsunami remained in their damaged state. Those that survived without damage sat in a no-man’s land due to the radiation. Vines have grown covering the rusted tracks.  In these locations, Eiko embodies bitter grief, anger and remorse, sometimes in vulnerable gestures and at other times dancing fiercely.

They returned to the area again in the 2016 summer and found much of the places they had visited in 2014 have been radically changed. New sea walls have been built, and many workers have been brought in to clear houses and buildings. They decontaminate the fields and roads. Fukushima has become a very dusty and busy place though people have not returned to live there. Only places that are left untouched by  bulldozers are shrines and forrest. Eiko danced in these places that remain highly irradiated.

In all, the photographs by Johnston capture Eiko’s movements and gestures as well as the evolving landscape over their three visits.

By placing my body in these places, I thought of the generations of people who used to live there. Now desolate, only time and wind continue to move.  Eiko Otake

By witnessing events and places, we actually change them and ourselves in ways that may not always be apparent but are important. Through photographing Eiko in these places in Fukushima, we are witnessing not only her and the places themselves, but the people whose lives crossed with those places. William Johnston

The exhibition has accompanied the tour of Eiko's solo performances,. The exhibition includes video A Body in Fukushima 2014  Eiko created using only Johnston's photographs.

Exhibition of A Body in Fukushima
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (Oct 3, 2014 through April 5 2016).
Galleries of Contemporary Art of University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (Dec. 2014 - Feb. 2015)
Three galleries in Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (Feb 5- May 25, 2015).
Reynolds Industries Theater (American Dance Festival, June-July, 2015)
Durham Art Council Gallery, Durham, NC (June-July 2015)
Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, (December - 2015)
Centre Gabriela Mistral, Santiago, Chile (Jan 3-27, 2016)
Columbia University East Asian Studies Library (March 11- April xx, 2016)
St Mark's Church Sanctuary (24 hour only event, March 11-12)
Flynn Center, Burlington, VT (May 2016)
Library, Raleigh, NC (June-July, 2016)
A Gallery, Martha's Vineyard (June-August, 2016)

Danspace Project Platform 2016, which focused on Eiko's A Body in Places, included 24 hour exhibition of the Fukushima photo exhibition with video of A Body in Fukushima in the sanctuary of St Mark's Church in East Village New York.. Scholars and artists gathered for three roundtable discussions in prior to the opening of the exhibition. Eiko designed the shifting light and 24 artists performed at every hour at the hour joining  in the commemoration of the fifth year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

In addition,the video of A Body in Fukushima Eiko edited was shown in group exhibitions at Brussel, Belgium, M plus Museum in Hong Kong, Australia, Frankfurt, Germany.

A Body in Fukushima will be on view at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in Upper Manhattan as part of a larger exhibition Christa Project from October 6 through March 12. More info.

Eiko Radio Interview “NEWSWEEK TONIGHT”

Exhibition brochure

William Johnston's Bio

Eiko Otake's Bio

Johnston's article on Japan Focus The Making of “A Body in Fukushima”: A Journey through an Ongoing Disaster

Artists' video interview

For press photos for A Body in Fukushima and A Body in Placesclick here

To view A Body in Fukushima shown at the South Gallery of Wesleyan University

Photos of the exhibition in Wesleyan University South Gallery

Photos of the exhibition in Davidson Art Center, Wesleyan University

American Dance Festival Exhibition Programs

Viewers' responses

The project was made possible in part by funds from the Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN program, the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, and Wesleyan University. The photography exhibition, A Body in Fukushima was co-commissioned by Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art, Galleries of Contemporary Arts of University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Wesleyan University.  Eiko is a Doris Duke Performing Artist Fellow.