Natural Disaster, Trauma and Activism in the Art of Takamine Tadasu 高峯挌のアートにおける自然災害、トラウマ、アクティビズム


February 16, 2015

Natural Disaster, Trauma and Activism in the Art of Takamine Tadasu 高峯挌のアートにおける自然災害、トラウマ、アクティビズム
Natural Disaster, Trauma and Activism in the Art of Takamine Tadasu 高峯挌のアートにおける自然災害、トラウマ、アクティビズム

Volume 13 | Issue 7 | Number 6

Article ID 4282

Abstract: Takamine Tadasu’s Fukushima Esperanto (2012) is an immersive project that responds to the unfolding tragedies of the March 2011 Tōhoku disaster. Connecting the experiences of Tōhoku with the devastating floods experienced across Queensland, Australia in the same year, Fukushima Esperanto invites reflection on trauma by a transnational audience. The artist’s assemblage of obsolete technologies and objects of childhood play expresses Takamine’s opposition to, and Japan’s conflicted relationship with, nuclear energy.

Keywords: Culture and Education, Nuclear art, trauma, Japan, Tōhoku earthquake

Takamine Tadasu’s Fukushima Esperanto (2012) is an immersive, cross-media art project, which communicates the tragedies of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, and the subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This art project exemplifies how the nature of trauma can be communicated artistically through bricolage, or an accumulation of pre-used objects from everyday life. Motivated by his personal experience as a post-tsunami volunteer worker in the region, Takamine demonstrates with this work the efficacy of immersive experiences as a mode of raising awareness of political issues.1

Takamine Tadasu

In Fukushima Esperanto the use of bricolage, in this case a fragmentation and accumulation of text, sound, image and object, is an inclusive device that conveys trauma to a global audience which is assumed to be diverse. From an elevated platform in the gallery the audience surveys an assemblage of detritus that is dispersed and arranged, with apparent randomness, to suggest the physical and psychological state of people displaced. Meandering lights scan the sandy floor to reveal a sprawl of objects from childhood toys to obsolete technologies. A child’s bicycle, a television cabinet under bamboo fencing, a pair of birdcages on a wooden bench and a mirror ball are potent triggers of feelings of nostalgia and melancholy. A group of meerkat figures are placed in a harmonious three-dimensional family portrait. The scatter of quotidian material evokes a shared experience of human vulnerability and hints at the resilient community connections that develop in the face of crises. It visualises impermanence in the face of natural disasters and the irreversible effect such disasters have on individual and collective lives.

Snaking between the seemingly random clutter of objects are lines of Esperanto text impressed into the sand, which are intermittently reiterated in a play of projected light. Over the walls and ceiling other scripts emerge and recede, inducing a continuous dream-like experience. A popular Japanese lullaby sung in Esperanto entices the viewer to linger. Other sonic and visual elements reference the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the so-called ‘peaceful’ uses of atomic energy after the Second World War. Using this bricolage of visual and textual elements Takamine extends the work beyond the immediate trauma of March 2011. Juxtaposing Fukushima with Hiroshima and the “Atoms for Peace” campaign (as discussed in more detail below) takes the events of 2011 out of the realm of “natural disaster”, placing Fukushima in the longer history of nuclear weaponry and the nuclear power cycle. This directs attention to the human element of decisions about the use of nuclear energy and the siting of nuclear plants, with the tragic consequences seen in Fukushima.

Art, Politics and Empathy

Born in Kagoshima, Japan in 1968, Takamine does not shy from controversy or politicised creative practice. He began his career as a member of Dumb Type, a Kyoto-based artists’ collective noted for its socially provocative performances.2 Fukushima Esperanto was specifically created for the 2012 Asia Pacific Triennial (APT7) at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Brisbane.3 The artist connected the devastation of Tōhoku with the floods experienced across Queensland in the same year to effectively make the work relevant to the APT’s primarily Australian audience. While positioning each discarded object with equal importance,4 the immediacy of the amassed detritus resonated with the experiences of local Brisbane and regional audiences. Many who visited APT7 would have witnessed the loss of life and devastation caused by the Queensland floods in the Australian summer of 2010–2011, either directly or through media representations. Then in late January 2013, as APT7 was drawing to a close, Cyclone Oswald again caused widespread damage and flooding in South Eastern Queensland, contributing further to the potency of Takamine’s work. In this way Fukushima Esperanto communicates the experience of the 3/11 disasters using bricolage, prompting feelings of melancholy and empathy, mediating between local experiences in Southern Queensland and the devastation in Fukushima.

Jeffrey Alexander discusses trauma as a cultural phenomenon that occurs when the experience of a tragic event leaves indelible marks upon a group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways.5 Sabine Sielke proposes that on an individual level we draw from our direct experiences or memory traces of trauma and blend them with our imagining of the event. As such, trauma remains essentially “unrepresentable” in art and language.6 In an attempt to express cultural trauma, a matrix has emerged “in which trauma works as a model of identity that is ultimately exclusionary and closed-off”.7 Considering this limitation, cultural trauma can still be recollected, narrated, and visualised in multiple ways.8 Takamine uses his diorama of bricolage as a commemorative device to communicate the experience of trauma. More broadly, the darkened and reflective space, scattered with playful and familial objects, possesses a melancholic aesthetic that also encourages empathy in those who have not been affected directly by trauma.9 Melancholy is a reflective and solitary state of mind characterised by emotional ambivalence, where pain and pleasure, longing and loss, give rise to imaginative and creative thought processes. Sigmund Freud defines melancholy as holding within the psyche an object of loss, one that may or may not be fully realised by the melancholic.10 Abigail Solomon-Godeau differentiates between Freud’s affliction of melancholia and the processes of mourning. Melancholia is the art of generic elegy rather than the commemoration of a particular event. The art of generic elegy expresses fatality, destiny or mortality. Melancholic objects and spaces also possess “an aura of aestheticized melancholy… a ghostly play of absence and presence”.11

Trauma is experienced when an event or series of events impacts on one’s psychological state so greatly that the understanding and recognition of one’s community, governance and environment is severely disrupted.12 Those who experience natural disasters may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a syndrome considered by psychologists to induce symptoms similar to those of individuals who have been subjected to violence, such as war or physical abuse.13 Such an individual may experience high levels of anxiety, guilt and depression. These heightened emotional states can then impair personal relationships, which in turn impact the welfare of the broader community. Forms of collective remembrance and commemoration acknowledge the experience of trauma suffered on an individual level and enable empathy in those not directly affected. Therefore, opportunities for people to reconnect and share the traumatic experience with others aid in dealing with the emotional states of grief and loss integral to the healing process. In this instance it is Fukushima Esperanto that activates empathy in the audience on an intuitive level.

Art has long been used to prompt catharsis and raise social awareness. Jill Bennett has theorised the global connectivities in art dealing with the lived experience and memory of trauma. In particular, she considers the contribution artists can make in developing a visually apprehensible language of sensation and affect.14 For Bennett, art needs to be discussed in terms of transactive capabilities in its engagement with an audience, who may or may not have a lived experience of trauma.15 Such empathetic engagement arises out of what Gilles Deleuze describes as a complex web, or totality, of sensations that cannot be synthesised by the intellect.16 The audience is presented with a rubric of merged and layered sensations that allow multiple and plural possibilities of experience and interpretation.

What then are the strategies that Takamine has used to invite empathy? In Fukushima Esperanto, as with his earlier works A Big Blow-Job (2004) and Kagoshima Esperanto (2005), the artist draws the viewer into a theatre of light and sound, where text and object are potent mnemonics.17 That is, they trigger memories, collective awareness and connection. Within the black cube of the gallery in Fukushima Esperanto, Takamine creates a sense of disorientation. Scattered light ripples overhead and objects are arranged on a sandy floor. Entering into the installation space one has the sense of being suspended below the surface of the sea. The darkness minimises any awareness of an architectural framework. The roof, walls and sections of the floor are black and dimly lit. This sense of enclosure offers the viewer a site of timelessness and reflection, which disarms any anxiety arising from their experiences in the real world. Takamine has created an imagined and melancholic space, a place the unconscious can safely inhabit.

Fukushima Esperanto

Here, no object is superfluous. Each item is potentially infused with personal or societal meaning. The space seems to be under water, an ocean bed covered in detritus. Water is, of course, the medium of disaster in both the tsunami and the floods. Jung identified water as an archetype, a life symbol existing in the dark of the soul.

It’s a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no yours, no good and no bad. It is the world of water, where all life floats above all.18

There is an emotional appeal to the work that arises out of its paradoxical chaotic-order and its incomplete-completeness. Everything is intact. There are no traces of silt or mud. There is no mangled steel, broken glass or plant debris as usually seen in images of disaster. The placement of everyday items has been carefully considered. In fact, the objects have not been salvaged from the tsunami or flood, but given to the artist by GoMA staff, or bought at second-hand and “reject” shops around Brisbane. That is, the sense of chaos and incompleteness suggested in the work is based on the artist’s agency in the selection and placement of objects, images, sound and text. Unlike a memorial display, these objects do not exude the aura of a traumatic event. These memento mori – which remind one of life’s transience – have been carefully modelled. It is a staged aftermath with no direct connection to any particular victims.

The absence of performers offers a space for the viewer to become a virtual fossicker and to visually pick over these pre-loved treasures as one might at a garage sale. In this way Takamine’s use of bricolage opens up the work for broader interpretation. As with the projected Esperanto phrases that reiterate the text impressed into the sand, the power of personal memories overwrite and enhance collective symbols. The domestic feel of the objects alludes to “home”, to familial bonds, and to shared memories. Like the transnational aims of Esperanto, bricolage mediates across cultural borders. The accumulated bricolage does not allow any one narrative or perspective or interpretation to dominate. It activates in the viewers imagined remembrances of their own lives, of happier times; and then disrupts them through displacement and absurd juxtapositions. Fukushima Esperanto is both accessible and inclusive, in that an individual can actively contemplate a familial object and then imagine its loss. Yet there is a quiet, bittersweet melancholy in experiencing the work, which over-rides any potential feelings of horror associated with disasters.

The installation’s darkened space encourages an atmosphere of focused attention and introspection. Darkness due to electric power cuts characterises most urban experiences of disaster. In the case of Fukushima, Tokyo’s lights were dimmed in the weeks following the disaster in order to save electricity. In a megacity renowned for its coloured neon, the darkened streets caused uneasiness. Subsequently, all of the nation’s nuclear power plants were shut down for precautionary reasons, necessitating a national effort to conserve energy.19 I also read the darkness as a metaphor for the Japanese government which kept the people “in the dark” by withholding information before and after the crisis.

Takamine intermittently illuminates the walls and ceiling with moving, morphing text and symbols that are both recognisable and imaginary. Several unlikely vignettes are revealed, such as teepee poles framing a doll seated on a child-sized chair. At the rear of the space, an electric fan at times causes a fringe of purple-pink paper streamers attached to the wall to move. As the streamers lift in the breeze one glimpses a chalk drawing of a child’s face. These impressionistic marks are vague traces of human existence. There are no portrait photographs documenting the specificities of lives past. To the right is a diminutive, light-projected figure that momentarily climbs the incline of an up-turned table only to slide down its slope on reaching the top. This repetitive motion is like the mythological figure of Sisyphus, doomed to spend eternity repeating the same pointless actions.20 This also invokes an existential feeling of melancholy, where the individual is unable to move beyond feelings of mourning. Trauma, too, has been defined as something which can not be expressed, and which stands outside time.

The Aesthetics of Bricolage and Images of Disaster

In Fukushima Esperanto the introspective aesthetic the artist uses fosters the viewer’s engagement through an accumulation of sight and sounds. The objects scattered in Fukushima Esperanto are reminiscent of US artist Allan Kaprow’s (1927–2006) toys-become-fetishes, drawers of mementos, dried flowers, bric-a-brac and keepsakes. Kaprow discuss these objects as,

… all possessing a post-Surrealist nostalgia, a mood of reverie and gentle humour and irony … authentically evocative and strange.21

Reverie, gentle humour and irony are evident in Fukushima Esperanto. Offering a range of responsive modes to the audience, Takamine broadens the appeal and therefore the efficacy of the experience. Without favouring a singular point of view, the artist encourages empathy and catharsis in the audience.

The materiality of the installation, as well as the theatrical use of sound and light, evokes earlier artists who have incorporated bricolage in their creative practices. Takamine directs the attention of the audience in their exploration of Fukushima Esperanto through his use of moving lights to gradually reveal the objects and text impressed into the earth floor. The projections encourage focused awareness of textured surfaces, colour and forms. When discussing Fukushima Esperanto Takamine says:

… the work unfolds moment by moment as the eye blinks and shifts little by little to follow the light. Close or faraway, from any elevated position or not, each element of the work emphasizes the complexity of the whole and the impossibility of comprehending it.22

This fragmentary audience engagement is a not unusual in contemporary immersive environments and has precedents in earlier avant-garde practices. Kaprow described an assemblage as having a regulated field articulated by voids and additions, on a scale so large that it is impossible to experience its detail all at once. Comparing the complexity of its surface to a cliff face, Kaprow extrapolates that the field of the work and its material qualities are a topography over which the eyes of the viewer must travel.23

For those who have experienced neither tsunami nor flood, Fukushima Esperanto relies on mass-mediated, collective memory and affective orientation to incite comprehension and empathy. Aspects of the audience response would have been stimulated by the media’s proliferation and selective framing of images of communities devastated by tsunamis, floods and hurricanes across the globe in recent years. Mass media visualisations, such as photographic stills and television reportage, both visualise and politicise trauma.24 Our ability, as humans, to communicate emotion to one another, sharing it collectively, is dependent on a learned reading of physical, visual and language codes that originate out of a particular socio-cultural environment. In the case of Takamine’s project, the greater the readability of signifiers the more assured the artist can be of imparting the sensation of dislocation and eliciting empathy from members of a global audience. He achieves this by creating the effect of a disaster scenario and juxtaposes objects with a bricolage of multilingual and imaginary texts.

A tug boat is among debris in Ofunato, Japan, following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew M. Bradley/Released)

Languages and Sound

As well as the ballet of projected scripts that traverses the space, Takamine has selected two key texts to help express the ineffable nature of trauma. The first is the Japanese lullaby Haruka na Tomo ni (For a Faraway Friend) liltingly sung by a soprano in Esperanto. The lyrics in the chorus suggest peace, innocence and nostalgia for a past life free of trauma.

In the silence and the dark of night always, I think of you,

Rest peacefully, dream sweetly

Sleep happily again tonight.

The lullaby, with the other elements such as coloured blocks and a little bejewelled tree, evokes a sense of pre-disaster naivety and peace. While not a speaker of Esperanto, Takamine was cognisant of the symbolic potency of the language.25 In 1887, Ludoviko Zamenhof developed Esperanto using a vocabulary derived from Romance and Germanic languages.26 It was intended to supersede geo-political and cultural barriers to foster peace. Of the up to two million active speakers across the globe, the language is relatively popular in Japan where its pacifist ideals resonated with the acclaimed poet Miyazawa Kenji (1896–1993), human rights activist Hasegawa Teru (1912–1947) and the Shintō sect Ōmotokyō.27

In the context of APT7 the meaning of the lyrics of the lullaby were lost to all but a rare few, although a printed translation was available for the more curious. Was the translation of the original Japanese lyrics into Esperanto a gesture to universalism? In an earlier work, Kagoshima Esperanto, Takamine mixed Esperanto with the local Kagoshima dialect from his home town, bringing together his family’s heritage and an ideal language which aspired to universalism. This comparison draws attention to his community’s position at the edge of culture with its dialect known to only a few. The gradual disappearance of the Kagoshima dialect with the impact of the centralisation of Japanese culture has relegated it to a form of abstracted communication.28In the more recent work, Fukushima Esperanto, Takamine’s integrated and complex use of language and text shifts audience engagement between the recognisable and the unrecognisable. More specifically, rather than comprehending the lyrics of the lullaby the individual is encouraged to favour an emotional response to the music and timbre of the singer’s voice.

Takamine’s combined use of spoken, sung and written text in his works aligns with Rukmini Bhaya Nair’s concept of postcolonial glossolalia (“speaking in tongues”).29 In the multilingual context of global communication where one is increasingly exposed to diverse and unintelligible languages, Bhaya Nair asserts that everyone counts as glossolalic. Within any creative context glossolalia de-familiarises the common use of language and is characterised by certain conditions. In the creative context, the language should be on some level still interpretable. While making inspired departures from linguistic norms it should remain sensible. The application of derivative language is a device for creating fictive worlds. More broadly, language enhances the wonder of Takamine’s installation as the viewer attempts to follow and comprehend the flow of projected glyphs and scripts, both authentic and invented.

Takamine chose to use Esperanto for its utopian aspirations and to establish an equality of unfamiliarity in the audience.30 Esperanto was not utilised here to communicate directly to the audience but rather to initiate and enhance the intuitive and empathetic responses of the audience. The polyglossia of real and imagined communication that the artist has brought together in Fukushima Esperanto creates a transient world where the viewer can experience both past innocence and recent devastation. In this way concepts of time and space are opened up to the audience’s perspectives and responses to the event. This exemplifies Bennett’s notion of transactive engagement.

Inception, communication and reception are essential to an earlier work by Takamine – Kimura–san (Mr Kimura) (1998). Although the significance of this video has been overshadowed by its controversial content, it exemplifies a development in the artist’s fascination with communication outside of language proficiency. Over a five-year period Takamine was a volunteer care giver for Kimura-san, a victim of the Morinaga Arsenic Milk Poisoning Incident of 1955. The incident resulted in infant deaths and more than 10,000 children being physically handicapped. Although Kimura-san is conscious, he has lost the controlled use of his body, making speech impossible. Kimura–san’s physical condition isolated him from sharing in the gestural and linguistic codes of any community – he was “a native speaker of no particular country”.31 Often engaging in imagined conversation with Kimura-san, Takamine devised a new code to communicate with him that was based on system of questioning with yes/no replies.32 As a result the artist developed a heightened perception of intuition and the possibilities of alternate approaches to interpersonal communication. Based on this understanding of how communication can transcend the cultural specificities of language, in Fukushima Esperanto Takamine shifts between comprehensible, unfamiliar and imagined language and text. In this way the artist encourages in the viewer a curiosity about the unfamiliar, rather than exclusivity or alienation.

Art and Politics Again

The artist’s unassuming yet sophisticated use of diverse media and the “abstracted language” of fragmented speech and song encourages an active relationship between Fukushima Esperanto and the audience, prompting self-questioning on the power relations between authority and subject. As the last notes of the lullaby waver in the air, the guiding lights methodically reveal small sections and then phrases of the text impressed into the earth. An antique wooden clock lying flat in the foreground of the installation comes into focus as the Malluma cambro (dark chamber) is highlighted. The sound of chimes punctuates the space. The significance of the analogue clock with its hands set to 8:16 is a visual prompt. This is the moment that the atomic bomb, codenamed “Little Boy”, hit Hiroshima on the morning of 6 August 1945. [Insert Figure 2: Mushroom Cloud over Hiroshima, 6 August 1945. U.S. National Archives] A vague image of a Korean woman in ethnic dress, steadfast with her hands demurely clasped at her waist appears on the rear wall of the installation, perhaps referencing the Korean residents who also suffered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.33 At the same time the almost indiscernible voice of the US president Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) is heard, creating a disjuncture with this illusory woman.

Occasional pages of history do record the faces of the “great destroyers” but the whole book of history reveals mankind’s never-ending quest for peace. Our purpose is to move out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light.34

This is an excerpt from Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech, which was presented to the United Nations on 8 December 1953, promoting nuclear energy as beneficial and fundamental to economic and scientific advancement. This speech is indicative of the ideals of the world-wide campaign undertaken by the US which influenced Japan’s postwar nuclear policy. Integral to the US campaign was the art exhibition The Atoms for Peace, which opened on 27 May 1956 at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. With over 100,000 visitors and supported by a positive press campaign, the exhibition’s rhetoric of peace, modernity and progress was a strategy to overcome the Japanese “nuclear allergy”.35

It was argued that, for a nation reliant on imported oil and natural gas, the atom would assure economic development and increased leisure, adding to the welfare of the community and lengthening human life. The physicist Taketani Mitsuo (1911–2000) was amongst the vanguard of intellectuals in the nuclear energy debate at the time. He argued that the Japanese, as casualties of atomic warfare, were uniquely entitled to pursue the research, development and peaceful use of atomic power.36 Nuclear energy has been a national strategic priority for Japan since 1973 and Australia is a significant supplier of uranium for the fifty-four nuclear reactors operational prior to the Fukushima incident.37

Although the majority of APT7’s audience may not have been aware of the exact time that Little Boy hit or the details of the Atoms for Peace campaign, they probably were aware of Australia’s connection as a significant global trader in uranium and of the ongoing anti-nuclear debate in the wake of Fukushima. A decade after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese anti-nuclear and peace movements intensified after “the ashes of death” fell on the fishing vessel Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5) in March 1954. The movement gained further momentum with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 and the the Dōnen and Tōkaimura nuclear accidents of 1997 and 1999 respectively.38 In the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant meltdown, the anti-nuclear debate again moved people to protest in the streets of Tokyo. Woven into their distrust of government was awareness of scarce and finite resources being channelled into containing a nuclear incident over and above the immediate urgency of resettling displaced communities.

Since March 2011, a plethora of artists in Japan and the Japanese diaspora have responded to the nuclear crisis and the subsequent anti-nuclear activism. The inclusion of Eisenhower’s speech in Fukushima Esperanto signals the artist’s political intent and positions the work in the genre of nuclear art. Takamine’s work sits alongside Ken and Julia Yonetani’s series of glowing chandeliers made from irradiated glass, ChimPom’s performances at the Fukushima Reactor site and Takada Shimpei’s photographic works made with radioactive soil from the area.39 In discussing his approach, Takamine advocates the use of an activist methodology to raise political awareness in his audience.40 As with all those produced by the artist after 3/11, Takamine’s personal experience of working with disaster survivors underpins his creative process. For his installation, The Nuclear Family Room (2012), exhibited in Cool Japan at Art Tower Mito in 2012, Takamine listed all the nuclear tests undertaken across the globe between 1945 and 2007, including the 1,056 conducted by the US alone.41 The artist’s installation provides data on the history of nuclear tests, but also stirs an affective response in the viewer to the relentless series of explosions represented. Takamine, in his oeuvre, explores a variety of approaches, choosing in Fukushima Esperanto to construct a psychological space where the ties of family and childhood innocence can be relived through individual memory.

Fukushima Esperanto’s immersive, multifocal platform raises awareness in its audience of the victims of the Tohoku disaster and the associated nuclear debate in Japan. Appealing on an intuitive level, this imagined wasteland of tragedy expresses Takamine’s opposition to, and Japan’s conflicted relationship with, nuclear energy. While the work responds to events and anxieties that are specific to Japan it also responds to the present, global concerns of a transnational audience. As with many of his works Takamine is motivated by a need to transcend communication barriers. Using a compilation of theatrical staging and bricolage, which incorporates a polyglossia of language and script, Fukushima Esperanto demands no clear rules of response nor does it offer opinions on the future. It relies entirely upon the will of the individual to navigate and create meaning out of this shadowy, whimsical world. In this absence of concrete outcomes, the artist offers his audience an opportunity to engage peacefully with the effects of disaster-related trauma and encourages a quiet (r)evolution based on empathy.

Recommended citation: Allison Holland, “Natural Disaster, Trauma and Activism in the Art of Takamine Tadasu”, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Vol. 13, Issue 6, No. 6, February 16, 2015.


1 Takamine Tadasu, Kaoru Hashiguchi and Mizuki Takahashi (eds.), Tadasu Takamine’s Cool Japan, Tokyo, Art Tower Mito, 2012, p. 20.

2 On Dumb Type, see “Dumb Type Biography”. Retrieved on 18 February 2014, from http;// See also Peter Eckersall, “1990s Performances of Dumb Type: Towards a New Humanity”, in Theorizing the Angura Space: Avant-Garde Performance and Politics in Japan, 1960–2000, Boston, Brill, 2006, pp. 143–157.

3 Brisbane has hosted The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) Since 1993, first at the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and then jointly at QAG and GoMA. Considered one of the region’s most respected and influential visual arts exhibitions, the Triennial has presented works by leading artists from across Asia, the Pacific, and Australia.

4 “APT7 Art and personal Memory: artist talk and discussion”, 8 December 2012. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. A brief video of Fukushima Esperanto can be seen on Vimeo. Retrieved on 7 August 2014 from

5 Jeffrey Alexander, ed. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

6 Sabine Sielke, “Why ‘9/11 Is [Not] Unique’, Or: Troping Trauma.” American Studies, vol. 55 (3), 2010, p. 390

7 Sielke, “Why ‘9/11 Is [Not] Unique’, Or: Troping Trauma.” p. 405

8 Sielke, “Why ‘9/11 Is [Not] Unique’, Or: Troping Trauma.” p. 386

9 Emily Brady and Arto Haapala, “Melancholy as an aesthetic emotion”, Contemporary aesthetics. Retrieved 16 October 2014.

10 Abigail Solomon-Godeau, “Mourning or melancholia: Christian Boltanski’s ‘Missing house'”, Oxford Art Journal, 21 (2) 1998, p.19. For Freud’s definition see: Sigmund Freud, “Mourning and melancholia”, The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, London, The Hogarth Press, edited and translated by James Strachey, vol 14, 1957 [1912], p. 249. For further discussions on melancholia see Vera Mackie, ‘Doris Salcedo’s Melancholy Objects’, Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, Volume 5, No 1, January 2008. Retrieved on 22 November 2014.

11 Solomon-Godeau, “Mourning or melancholia: Christian Boltanski’s ‘Missing house'”, p. 8

12 Emma Hutchison and Roland Bleiker, “Emotional Reconciliation: Reconstituting Identity and Community after Trauma”, European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 11, no. 3, 2008, p. 385.

13 Susanne Babbel, “The Trauma That Arises from Natural Disasters”, Psychology Today, 21 April 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2013.

14 Jill Bennett, Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma and Contemporary Art, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2005, p. 2.

15 Bennett, Empathic Vision, pp. 5–6.

16 Charles J. Stivale (ed.), Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts, Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005, p. 136.

17 Andrew Maerkle, “Interview: Takamine Tadasu: From the Mouth or in the Mouth but not of the Mouth – Words and Objects”. Art iT Asia, 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2014.

18 Carl G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 21.

19 On electricity-saving practices (setsuden) after the disaster, see also Stevens’ essay in this issue.

20 See Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, London, Vintage, 1991 [originally published in 1942].

21 Allan Kaprow, Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai and Jean-Jacque Lebel, Assemblages, Environments and Happenings, New York, H. N. Abrams, 1966, p. 162.

22 Amano Taro, “A Provocative Artist”, in Too Far to See, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, 2011, p. 152.

23 Kaprow et. al., Assemblages, p. 163.

24 Emma Hutchison, “A Global Politics of Pity: Disaster Imagery and the Emotional Construction of Solidarity after the 2004 Asian Tsunami”, International Political Sociology, vol. 8, no. 1, 2014, pp. 3–4.

25 Interview with Reuben Keehan, Curator APT7, QAGOMA, 5 July 2013.

26 Esperantic Studies Association. Retrieved on 20 November 2013.

27 Roger Pulvers, “Miyazawa Kenji’s Prophetic Green Vision: Japan’s Great Writer/Poet on the 80thAnniversary of His Death”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 11, iss. 44, no. 2, 4 November 2013. Retrieved on 31 March 2014; Gotelind Müller, Hasegawa Teru alias Verda Majo (1912–1947): A Japanese Esperantist in the Chinese Anti-Japanese War of Resistance, Heidelberg, University of Heidelberg, 2013, translation of Gotelind Müller: “Hasegawa Teru alias Verda Majo (1912–1947). Eine japanische Esperantistin im chinesischen anti-japanischen Widerstand”, in Denise Gimpel and Melanie Hanz (eds.) Cheng: All in Sincerity. Festschrift in Honour of Monika Übelhör, Hamburg, 2001, pp. 259–274. Translated by Gotelind Müller and Subei Wu; “Oomoto”. Retrieved on 20 March 2014.

28 “APT7 Art and personal Memory: Artist talk and discussion”, 8 December 2012. Retrieved on 12 February 2014.

29 Rukmini Bhaya Nair, Lying on the Postcolonial Couch: The Idea of Indifference, Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, 2002, p. 103.

30 “APT7 Art and personal Memory: artist talk and discussion”.

31 Maerkle, Interview: Takamine Tadasu.

32 Japan Foundation (ed.) Rapt! 20 Contemporary Artists from Japan: Screening Program, Sydney, Japan Foundation, 2006, n.p.

33 On the “forgetting” of the experience of resident Koreans in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, see Lisa Yoneyama, Hiroshima Traces: Time, Space and the Dialectics of Memory, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1999.

34 Dwight D. Eisenhower “Atoms for Peace Speech”, 1953, International Atomic Energy Agency. Retrieved 1 November 2013.

35 Ran Zwigenberg, “‘The Coming of a Second Sun’: The 1956 Atoms for Peace Exhibit in Hiroshima and Japan’s Embrace of Nuclear Power”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 10, iss. 6, no. 1, 2012. Retrieved on 30 March 2014.

36 Morris Low, Shigeru Nakayama, and Hitoshi Yoshioka, Science, Technology and Society in Contemporary Japan, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 71.

37 World Nuclear Association, “Australia’s Uranium”, 2014. Retrieved on 30 January 2014, from In 2008, Japan was Australia’s third biggest buyer of uranium and purchased 2,446 tonnes. See also Mackie’s essay in this issue.

38 Zwigenberg, “The Coming of a Second Sun”.

39 Asato Ikeda, “On Uranium Art: Artist Ken + Julia Yonetani in Conversation with Asato Ikeda,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 11, iss. 11, no. 1, 18 March 2013. ChimPom and Linda Hoaglund, “The Suddenly Relevant Activist Antics of Artist Collective ChimPom: Challenging Japan’s Nuclear Power Agenda”, TheAsia-Pacific Journal,vol. 10, iss. 30, no. 3, 23 July 2012. Adam Broinowski, “Fukushima: Life and the Transnationality of Radioactive Contamination,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 11, iss. 41, no. 3, 14 October 2013. For earlier considerations of artistic genres and the nuclear issue, see Ken Ruthven, Nuclear Criticism, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1993; John Whittier Treat, Writing Ground Zero: Japanese Literature and the Atomic Bomb, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1995; Mick Broderick (ed.) Hibakusha Cinema: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Nuclear Image in Japanese Film, Kegan Paul International, London, 1996.

40 Takamine Tadasu, Kaoru Hashiguchi and Mizuki Takahashi (eds.), Tadasu Takamine’s Cool Japan, Tokyo, Art Tower Mito, 2012, p. 20

41 Takamine et. al, Cool Japan, p. 59.

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Volume 13 | Issue 7 | Number 6

Article ID 4282

About the author:

Allison Holland is a lecturer in Art History at the University of Queensland and Coordinator of Academic Relations for The University Art Museum. Previously, she has worked as a Visual Arts Curator for the National Gallery of Victoria and State Library of Victoria. Her research interests include Australian-Japanese bi-cultural exchanges and the use of technology in contemporary art.

The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus is a peer-reviewed publication, providing critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific and the world.

    About the author:

    Allison Holland is a lecturer in Art History at the University of Queensland and Coordinator of Academic Relations for The University Art Museum. Previously, she has worked as a Visual Arts Curator for the National Gallery of Victoria and State Library of Victoria. Her research interests include Australian-Japanese bi-cultural exchanges and the use of technology in contemporary art.


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