On March 11, 2017, Remembering Fukushima: Art and Conversation at the Cathedral will commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in Japan. Conceived by the Cathedral’s artist-in-residence, Eiko Otake, this four-hour program will bring together scholars, specialists, and artists of many disciplines to create an occasion that aspires to be both informative and affecting. Offered as a free admission event, everyone is welcome to join, reflect and learn.
On March 11, 2011, the biggest earthquake in Japanese history hit Northeast Japan and shut down the sustained fission reactions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The highest tsunami ever recorded in Japan soon followed, disabling the plant’s emergency generators. Insufficient cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns and explosions, releasing vast quantities of radioactive material. Rated at the maximum of Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the Fukushima meltdowns were the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. The destroyed plants continue to contaminate the surrounding area and sea, while Japanese companies are selling nuclear technology to India. To remember Fukushima means to realize how nuclear technology cannot be trusted with our lives and the environment.
Eiko Otake has been teaching college courses on the atomic bombings and nuclear power for the last ten years. Her solo project, A Body in Places, stated in 2014 with her visit to irradiated Fukushima with photographer and historian William Johnston. Their collaborative photo exhibition, A Body in Fukushima, has been since shown in many cities both in the U.S. and abroad. In New York last year, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima meltdowns, Eiko and Johnston collaborated with Danspace Project to present these photos as a 24-hour exhibition, each hour marked with performances by guest artists.
Regarding her decision to go to Fukushima:
"How do I feel in Fukushima and how does that make me commit to the subject differently, by visiting and dancing there? Being there, the sense of devastation eats at every cell of one’s body. If you’re looking at something awful on TV, you can go to the bathroom or have a snack. These distractions help you recognize that you are at a distance, you are in control. Whereas, in the Fukushima evacuation zone, we cannot help asking: What is this? How has this come about? Where is this going?
How do you make the distance to a certain subject or a place so close that it becomes a part of your life, a part of your body, so that when you start to forget something, there is an INNER voice to bring you back. It’s not somebody else who can advise you. It’s yourself who brings you back to the very thing you decided that you did not want to forget."
---from transcript of Eiko's interview with Wesleyan University for the opening of the Fukushima photo show in 2015
Now at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Eiko will again direct an anniversary event, working together with concerned scholars and artists.
The event will also coincide with the closing of The Christa Project, which features 21 contemporary artists and includes Eiko and Johnston’s photos from their most recent trip to Fukushima. On March 11th, Eiko and Johnston’s photo exhibition will be expanded to mark the occasion. Speakers, musicians, and artists will work together to create an experience that will help participants know and remember Fukushima, and its significance in our lives today.
Participants confirmed to date:
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
Conceived and directed by Eiko Otake
Dramaturge: Mark McCloughan
Media Coordinator: Alexis Moh
Remembering Fukushima is presented in association with Asia Society and Danspace Project. Eiko’s residency at the Cathedral and her participation in The Christa Project was made possible in part by support from the Japan Foundation’s Performing Arts Japan program, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Harkness Foundation for Dance.