A Body in Fukushima, interview with Wesleyan University professor and visiting artist

I encourage you to watch this interview with William Johnston, a professor of history and east Asian studies at Wesleyan University, and Eiko Otake, a visiting artist in Wesleyan’s dance department and the College of East Asian Studies. Beginning 15 minutes into the video, Johnston explains the rise of nuclear power in Japan in the ’50s, when the Japanese government propagated nuclear power to gain a reputation of safety. Now the deserted towns of Fukushima Prefecture such as Tomoika are dumping grounds for radioactive waste and will not be habitable for decades if not centuries. William also criticizes the soil decontamination efforts.

Otake discusses her experience in Fukushima, where she was photographed wearing fabric from her grandmother’s kimono. She explains her feelings as a result of being in such an empty, deserted place and reflects on the loss of the Fukushima evacuees.

Summary from Wesleyan University’s website: ” A Body in Fukushima is a haunting series of color photographs and videos presented in a groundbreaking exhibition across all three of Wesleyan’s galleries. Last year, 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. Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the explosions of the Daiichi nuclear plant made the area uninhabitable. Sometimes in vulnerable gestures and at other times in a fierce dance, Eiko embodies grief, anger, and remorse. Mr. Johnston’s crystalline images capture her with the cries of the Fukushima landscapes. ‘By placing my body in these places,’ she says, ‘I thought of the generations of people who used to live there. I danced so as not to forget.’ A project of witness, remembrance, and empathy, A Body in Fukushima grapples with the reality of human failure. As Mr. Johnston writes, ‘By witnessing events and places, we actually change them and ourselves in ways that may not always be apparent but are important.’ ”

watch video


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