My desire to create art comes from my search for the meaning of our existence. I use my artwork as a key to understand others and myself. The most precious thing in my life is the growth process. Art is my guide and mentor....

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The beginning of a journey to know the US and Myself

It had been busy traveling since the fall of 2018, and more than one year has passed without writing a blog. I visited many places where I wanted to go for a long time, and had interesting experiences. There were some connection for my next step. Looking back on this period, I am questioning myself what I really want to do. In order to find the answer, I decided to write blogs since October 2018. 

It was my first trip to Colorado and Arizona, and the beginning of a trip to know the United States. On this journey, I realized that I was an immigrant to the United States, and I was able to find out about the United States that is invisible to urban life in New York City.


In retrospect, it began with meeting Melissa who was a resident of Colorado and participated my printmaking workshop in New York City. We had a lot in common and soon became friends. With her introduction, I went to the New York Film Festival to watch her friend's documentary film "Sauti". It was very inspiring movie that shows five refugee girls' stories of their dreams, efforts and growing process. I met the director, Gayle Nosal and the performer Favorite Regina after screening.They came to see my work next day and decided to exhibit my works at their exhibition in Denver and to invite me to Colorado.

It was a collaborative exhibition by Edge Gallery, and NeeNee Production which produced the movie “Sauti. The exhibition “VOICE: A CELEBRATION OF REFUGEE STORIES” featured works focusing on topics related to refugee, immigrant experiences and migration. At the opening, I was able to hear the refugee experience directly from young artists of Africa and the Middle East. I was impressed that their expression was not only a relief from trauma but also empower to their lives.

The screening of "Sauti" and panel discussion were a great success. By filming over the years, The trust relationship that had been fostered between the filmmakers and five girls was reflected on the screen. It seemed to be a key to solving the refugee issues. There was lively discussion and Q & A with the audience by participating refugee artists, and representative of a non-profit organization on refugees, the director, Gayle and Favorite who came from Rwanda.

Rocky Flats: Nuclear Weapons Plant

Merissa organized my workshop and artist talk at Boulder Creative Collective. It was a pleasure to meet and be able to connect with local artists. Living in Boulder, surrounded by beautiful mountains, reminds us that humans are part of nature. However, due to its beauty, the problem of contamination is forgotten and obscured. 

Around this area, there was a facility called Rocky Flats Plant, that manufactured nuclear weapons (especially detonators), was designated from 1952 until its shutdown in 1992. In the 1990s, the first demolition of nuclear facilities began, and serious nuclear contamination was revealed. Gayle drove me to Northwest Gate in Rocky Flats. On a vast site, I was able to see old building emitting smoke, trace of rail and a sign of natural gas pipeline. In 2018, Metropolitan State University of Denver declined to further participate in the Downwinders' health survey. There were also new houses nearby, indicating that many people did not know the fact. 

In August 2019, soil sampling test outside the former Rocky Flats Plant near Indiana Street was five times higher plutonium than acceptable. After that, New Rocky Flats soil tests showed  low radioactivity. After this, New Rocky Flats soil tests showed low adioactivity. Colorado officials announced Rocky Flats showed safe plutonium levels. Most importantly, the news has exposed Rocky Flat’s radiation issues and its history to people who don't know. Colorado also has natural radiation. Colorado also has natural radiation. My geiger counter measured some places more than 0.2μSv/hr that is considered hotspots.

Amache: Japanese Concentration Camp

During the second world war in Colorado, there was also a concentration camp “Amache” of Japanese-American and Japanese immigrant that set up in August 1942. Although I couldn't visited "Amache" this time, I had a chance to hear from a researcher who are currently excavating "Amache" and see the excavated goods, as the camp was demolished shortly after the war. 

I was also able to hear valuable stories from Japanese American Marge Taniwaki who was detained shortly after birth in Manzanar, California. I thought her longing for Japan became very strong because of her Japanese parents and the oppressed camp life. 

In her daily life, she has been watching Japanese TV programs and eating Japanese food. She couldn't speak Japanese. However I felt her good old Japanese heart, such a kindness and courtesy to others. It was a time when many parents did not teach their Japanese to children as  they are not discriminated against by being Japanese. Her identity as a Japanese has not been lost when she was born and raised in the United States. On the contrary, her experience in concentration camps led to her strengthening her Japanese identity. Meeting with her gave me an opportunity to think about living in the United States as a Japanese.

Bisbee: Visible Connections from the border

After Colorado, I visited my artist friends Sanae and Orin in Bisbee where was on the border of Arizona and Mexico. I have been interested in Arizona. In 2010, I created an artwork titled "Letters from Seattle" and participated in an exhibition protesting Arizona's new anti-immigration law. Arizona is one of the states with Four Corners in the indigenous settlements of Navajo. The boundaries shown on the map are not drawn by indigenous people. 

Coincidentally I was able to watch the movie "Bisbee '17" which was just released before going to my trip. This movie became an important guide and inspired me. 100 years ago,1,200 migrant miners and officials who demonstrated of Improving working conditions in harsh mines, opposition to discrimination against migrant workers, and protest to the World War 1, were deported in Bisbee. 

In the movie, local people played and collaborated to recreate the events that took place in the town, while closely following the feelings of the people at the time. The movie documented the process of reproducing this incident with locals as a 100th anniversary event. In the movie, it was filming the process of local people recreating this incident as a 100th anniversary event. I was able to meet a local artist Laurie who was one of the performers, and hear about her experience being in the movie. 

While researching about the copper mine locally, I got information that a mining engineer, Takeo Shikamura who came from Japan and lived in Bisbee before world war 2. Coincidentally, there is Ashio Copper Mine in my home prefecture in Japan. It was the starting point of Japanese public pollution, and the residents and miners have appealed to the government for environmental issues for the first time in Japan. At the border of Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, and Ibaraki prefectures, Yanaka Village, which was the base of this pollution movement, was forcibly abolished in 1906, and Watarase Reservoir for mineral deposition was set up. The people who have lost their homes due to the contaminated lands have been sent to the frigid, Saroma, Hokkaido as pioneering immigrants. 

I walked through the town of Bisbee, remembering when I visited Ashio one year ago at the same time. I felt synchronicity in a nostalgic landscape that seemed to drawn into the past. I imagined that deported workers and a Japanese engineer, Takeo Shikamura who worked at the copper mine were also walking along this same path. There is a landscape that can be seen if you connect the points scattered beyond time and place. I thought here might be contaminated and measured it with my geiger counter. It was displayed 0.23μSv / hr. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Travel Report and Fall News

September marks a month with many disasters in Japan. This September 6, there was an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 with the epicenter in the Middle Eastern part of Hokkaido. The epicenter was 62 miles away from the Tomari nuclear power plant, which had been inactive. The blackout across Hokkaido reminded me of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident seven years ago and New York City's massive blackout of 2003. I felt terror thinking about when the nuclear power plant will be restarted.

There was the 17 anniversary of September 11 attacks in New York City.The number of victims have been increasing nowadays. Many victims have been died by cancer because of  the toxic substances was mixed in the dust when the building collapsed.

In August I visited friends in Buffalo and Montreal. This trip began with visiting Niagara Falls on both the US and Canada borders. On the Canadian side, luxurious houses line up along the river and flourish in the tourism business. On the US side factories line up along the river, and the place where the waterfall can be seen was a national park.

While guiding me, my friend told me about the “Love Canal Incident,” known as the site of the landfill where this neighborhood became the epicenter of a large-scale environmental pollution disaster that hurt the health of hundreds of residents. Her friend has become cancer and still lives there.

In Montreal, I visited Ms. Ryoko Hashizume who I met in Belgium in 2015. She introduced me to her members of group “Montréal KIZUNA” who remembers the East Japan great earthquake, and knew the current situation of people who had to coexist with radiation, and continued to support. All the members were unique. They were cooperating naturally using their skills, and I felt comfortable to be with them.

During Japanese festival, I enjoyed participating their activities. They had a booth to sell supporters’ handmade items, and a corner to give information on nuclear issues such as radiation exposure. I had a chance to communicate with many customers and I got information on Canadian nuclear issues. Quizzes on nuclear issues became popular by giving prizes to people with correct answers. I felt that continuing activities toward such publicity will lead to raising awareness of nuclear issues.

In Montreal, I measured spatial dose of radioactivity with my geiger counter called ECO TEST of Ukraine's TERRA-P.  Approximately average 0.13 μSv / h. There was a place that go up to 0.16 μSv / h in the Kent park close to the Montreal University.I heard from Ryoko that McGill University and Montreal University in Montreal were used as laboratories for the Manhattan Project before ultimately moved to the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories where located about 200 km north of Ottawa in Ontario. I knew that Britain was involved in the development of nuclear bombs, but I didn't know that Canada was also involved. More info: Canada’s historical role in developing nuclear weapons

Although I tend to believe myself that I am safe, my apartment in New York is also  0.13 μSv/h. This figure is almost the same as my parents' house, which is about 100 km away from Fukushima, which was a candidate site for radioactive waste final disposal site in Tochigi. My Geiger counter is not accurate but it serves as a guide. Measuring radioactivity with a Geiger counter is a trigger to make one aware of our environment, and it reminds me that radioactive contamination is not another person's affair.

In this trip, I learned there are similar problems in the US and Canada, such as indigenous people's exposure to uranium mining, the existence of concentration camps of Japanese immigrants during the wartime, etc. I felt that the shadow of the Britain in Canada. Knowing Canada would lead to knowing the US more.

"Under This Sky: Entrance of Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant" 
The three worst nuclear meltdowns in history were at Three Mile Island in the U.S., Chernobyl in the Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan. The Three Mile Island nuclear accident, in 1979, was the first of these major nuclear accidents. Next year, on March 28, will be the 40th anniversary of this event, and the plant is scheduled to be shut down in September. The image of the entrance to the Three Mile Island plant implies, with both relief and anxiety, the long road of its decommissioning.

The 8th Anti-Nuke Power Art Exhibition
September 24, Monday- October 21, Sunday
Opening  September 26, Wednesday, 5:30-7:00PM
Closing    October 17, Wednesday, 5:30-7:00PM
Theater for the New City’s  TNC Art Gallery
155 1st Ave. New York, NY 10003

Opening day is International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Let's wish for denuclearisation and peace together.

Group Critiques 
Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop program
September 24, Monday
50/50 Gallery
323 West 39th Street 5th Floor NY NY 10018

As an introduction to my project "under this sky”, I am presenting some of my photo panels, and my powerpoint with my recent activities and plans.

Discover Your Collagraph
September 29, Saturday, and 30, Sunday
10:30AM- 2:30PM
Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop
323 West 39th Street 2nd Floor NY NY 10018

"Nature Rip off" 
The adan is a tree, a symbol of Okinawa, used for a long time by Okinawans for their daily necessities. Seventy percent of US military bases in Japan are in Okinawa, and the island’s natural beauty has been destroyed by the construction of these bases. This cracked landscape implies that Nature has been “ripped off” by human beings. And as we are all part of nature, we humans have been ripping off ourselves.

RBPMW Members Show
October 1 - October 28
50/50 Gallery
Opening Reception: October 3, Wednesday, 6:00-8:00PM
During EFA Open Studios: October 19, Friday, 6-9PM
Contact Robert Blackburn Printmaking workshop
323 West 39th Street 5th Floor NY NY 10018

"all things are linked 911” 
The outline map represents our Earth. In the beginning, Earth had no national borders. The folded-paper cranes serve as symbols of peace and hope. I’ve made folded-paper cranes from a world map and attached them wherever U.S. bombs have been dropped and where 9/11 disasters occurred. The U.S. is a country of immigrants, yet it bombs its immigrants’ homelands. Since the September 11 attacks, the number of refugees around the world has been increasing. The refugee problem has been caused by needless human conflict.

Voice: A Celebration of Refugee Stories
EDGE Gallery
October 12, Saturday - October 28, Sunday
Opening Reception: October 12, Saturday, 5:00-10:00PM
“Sauti" Film screening & Discussion October 19, Friday, 7:00-9:00PM
Organised by NeeNee productions 
7001 W Colfax Lakewood, CO80214

Advanced Printmaking Workshop 
October  20, Saturday - October 21, Sunday
Boulder Creative Collective
organized by Melissa Pickering
2500 47th St, Boulder, Colorado 80301

Monday, July 30, 2018

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Memorial Events

Our group Manhattan Project for a Nuclear-Free World and Peace Boat hosted the event of Hibakusha (A-Bomb Survivors from Hiroshima & Nagasaki) on Friday July 13th at Players Theatre from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. They were in NYC as a part of the Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World project by Peace Boat. Despite short notice, a lot of people participated in this rare event. We heard testimonies and reports from three hibakusha.

Mr. Ueda Koji: Hiroshima survivor exposed to atomic bomb at age 3. Born 15 February 1942. Lives Tokyo.
Ms. Kuramori Terumi: Nagasaki survivor exposed to atomic bomb at age 1. Born 8 January 1944. Lives Hiroshima.
Mr Shnagawa Kaoru: 2nd generation Hiroshima survivor. Born 10 June 1950. Lives Hiroshima. Volunteer Guide.

Although they had no memory when the bomb was exploded, they talked about the hardships of living as an atomic bomb survivor with the memories of the other deceased hibakusha. It has been getting harder to hear memories of those days by aging of A-bomb survivors. Now, an urgent task is how to convey the testimony of the A-bomb survivors and the message of peace to the next generation.

The peace activities and anti-nuclear movement  in the United States were also introduced hibakusha and audience. One peace activist Catherine Skopic showed a ring of connected folded paper cranes that was a gift from Hibakusha long time ago in Japan and talked about the memories as she weeped. It was an emotional moment to remind that the exchange between Japanese and Americans wishing for peace has continued for many years.

The existence of faded colored folded paper cranes became an impressive silent testimony of atomic bomb victims. The cranes were in faded thin pink --- reminiscent of cherry blossoms. I felt this color symbolized connections between hibakusha who died as victims and our lives, and the connections between her and the survivors. I imagined a situation that A-bomb survivors who passed away were folding paper cranes with their wish. " Don't forget us.”

Peace Gathering to Commemorate
73rd Anniversary of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Friday August 3 
12:00pm – 1:30pm
Front of Japanese Consulate
299 Park Avenue NYC
Organized by Manhattan Project for a Nuclear-Free World 
Global list of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Day events

25th Annual Interfaith Peace Gathering 
Commemorating Hiroshima & Nagasaki Atomic Bombings

Sunday, August 5
5:00pm – 8:00pm
Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square Park South, NYC 

Commemorative Ceremony:
Messages from the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 
Sharing Hiroshima survivor Tomiko Morimoto’s story.
A silent prayer at the exact moment of the Hiroshima bombing
(8:15 Aug. 6th Japan time)
Silent Peace Walk to Washington Square Park. 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb Photo Exhibition.
(My artwork titled "Silent" is part of the exhibition)

Silent Series (Hiroshima - Nagasaki )
Silkscreen, Emboss, Burned deco edge.  27.5” x 16.5”  2015

In the early 1990s I took a photograph of an abandoned school's corridor in Japan. I felt it seemed like children disappear in the future. When the March 11th, 2011 earthquake occurred, I remembered and used this photograph in my series of artwork titled "Silent “. In order to remind of the disaster, and listen to the voice of the dead, I changed the clock's time of the corridor to the time when the atomic bomb exploded and the nuclear accident occurred.

Atomic Bomb Panel & Peace Art Exhibition  
Thursday August 9- Tuesday 14
Opening Thursday August 9, 6 - 8:30pm
Monday-Friday 12-6pm, Saturday 12-3pm  
43 West 13 Street NYC