A Body in Fukushima (video installation)
Photo by William Johnston

A Body in Fukushima (video installation) (2018)

Installation A Body in Fukushima is comprised of two art works that attest the sense of place(s) and time: a projection of a durational video Eiko Otake crafted from hundreds of photographs, taken by William Johnston, of herself in the surreal, irradiated landscapes of post-nuclear meltdown Fukushima, Japan and a tattered red cloth that has accompanied Eiko in all of her travels to Fukushima and most of her public performances in the US.

Eiko traveled five times to evacuated, desolate Fukushima since the triple disaster—earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown—of 2011. From her second trip forward, she was accompanied by photographer Johnston (also a professor of Japanese history and public health) who documented her body in places of nuclear contamination.

This 4’32” film is an assemblage of photographs (culled from nearly 25,000 images), spare intertitles (written by Eiko and composed of facts, statistics, and personal reflections), accompanied by an original score (created by Eiko of found and recorded natural and unnatural sounds).

The film is comprised of four sections: January 2014, July 2014, August 2016, June 2017.  Throughout Eiko is in constant dialogue with a post-apocalyptic environment—seas rage, 1-ton bags of contaminated soil stand like soldiers unmoved, irradiated ancient burial grounds provide shelter but contain danger—as she navigates a changing terrain over three years. The series of costumes add a distinctive color palate to the environment. A large swath of red cloth, sewn from the lining of her grandmother’s kimono, accompanies her on her trek and becomes tattered. Superficial attempts at decontamination and normalization are made by workers lacking appropriate protective gear.

Eiko Otake and William Johnston have co-taught courses on nuclear and environmental issues at Wesleyan University focused on ideas of “the body,” both human and environmental, as a foundation for inquiry. A Body in Fukushima is a testament to their empathy for the environment and a comment on the dangers of human heedlessness in the natural world.

5 min excerpt of the film

William Johnston's Bio
Eiko Otake's Bio

Artists' video interview

Performing the History of A Body in Places:Conversation between the collaborators

Press photos A Body in Fukushima and A Body in Places