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A Body in Fukushima | Eiko + Koma
A Body in Fukushima
photo by William Johnston

A Body in Fukushima (2014-)

A Body in Fukushima is the title of the extensive and expanding collaborative project between Eiko and photographer William Johnston. Johnston is a professor of Japanese history at Wesleyan University. He teaches and researches on wide academic topics.

The project has grown to include:

Photo exhibition: A Body in Fukushima

Video installation: A Body in Fukushima

Film screening: A Body in Fukushima

A Body in Places Met Edition

Memorial events: Remembering Fukushima

Eiko and Johnston met in 2005 and, prior to this artistic collaboration, had co-taught courses at Wesleyan University on the atomic bombings and mountaintop removal mining.

Eiko first invited William Johnston to collaborate on creating photograph works in Fukushima in 2015. It was at the time Eiko began conceiving her fist solo project, A Body in Places , which started with A Body in a Station at 30th Street Amtrak train station in Philadelphia as weekly, three-hour performances throughout the month of 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. 

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 and 2017 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 four 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 and film screening have accompanied the tour of Eiko's performances. All the photographs for the exhibitions and films are by William Johnston.

Individual photographs are available for a sale to help the publication of the book and to further develop the project. Please send inquiries to info@eikoandkoma.org

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.