Patrick Dowdey, curator for the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies gallery, introduced the Body in Fukushima exhibit Feb. 5.
A Body in Fukushima, a series of color photographs and video presented in a groundbreaking exhibition across three Wesleyan galleries, is on display through April.
“Eiko in Fukushima, Komagamine No. 146, 17 January 2014,” is on display in the exhibit. (Photo by William Johnston)
The series is an exploration into the area around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which destabilized and melted down after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The power plant released radioactive materials into the surrounding environment.
In 2014, dancer-choreographer Eiko Otake and photographer/historian William Johnston followed abandoned train tracks through desolate stations into eerily vacant towns and fields in Fukushima, Japan. Otake is a visiting instructor in dance and Johnston is professor of history, professor of east Asian studies, professor of environmental studies and professor of science in society.
“By placing my body in these places, I thought of the generations of people who used to live there. I danced so as not to forget,” Otake said. A project of witness, remembrance, and empathy, A Body in Fukushima grapples with the reality of human failure.
The explosions of the Daiichi Power Plant made the area uninhabitable. Sometimes in vulnerable gestures and at other times in a fierce dance, Otake embodies grief, anger and remorse. Johnston’s images capture her with the cries of the Fukushima landscapes.
The works can currently be seen at the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Gallery, the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery and the Davison Art Center Gallery. More hours and more information see the exhibit’s website.
The exhibit features a photo and a video installation.
From left, Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, associate professor of environmental studies; Eiko Otake; and Hari Krishnan, assistant professor of dance, mingle at the exhibit’s opening.
Otake talks with a student at the exhibit.
Johnston and Otake created these images at Momouchi Station in January and July 2014. The station is located 7.4 miles northwest of the Daiichi reactors. Prior to the disaster, the station had long, clean platforms that curved from end to end; now, the tracks and platforms are overgrown, the rails bent by the force of the earthquake, and the buildings are rendered unable by radiation. Like many areas around the power plant, Momouchi has become a living experiment on the effects of radiation on all life forms found there. “When we returned to Momouchi Station in July, vivid green vines grew over large sections of the tracks and some platforms. The color and forms generated a sense of vibrancy that belied the fact that they contacted high levels of radiation,” Johnston said.
Viewers talk in front of a Body in Fukushima photo series.
Pictured at the exhibit are Bill Johnston, Eiko Otake and Pam Tatge, director of the Center for the Arts,
A Body in Fukushima was co-commissioned by Wesleyan and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. The project is supported by the Japan Foundation, the Creative Campus Initiative of the Center for the Arts, and the Office of Academic Affairs. (Photos by Aviva Hirsch ’16)