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On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake on the North East coast of Japan generated a tsunami of exceptional force. These natural disasters, which caused more than twenty thousand deaths, provoked another tragedy— the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident.

After this triple disaster that plummeted the country into an unprecedented social, political and ecological crisis, artist and film director Hikaru Fujii initiated this ongoing project that unfolds in KADIST in May 2019, taking the Futaba Town Museum of History and Folklore as a starting point and grounds for speculation. Futaba, situated 4 kilometers from the power plant, was entirely evacuated and still mostly remains as a “Difficult-To-Return zone”. Although small parts of the town are planned to be reopened between 2020 and 2022, it is not known how many residents will return to live.

To avoid radioactive contamination and biological damage, the museum collection (dioramas, traditional objects, tools, taxidermied animals, etc.) was removed little by little from the area. It is unknown if these collections will ever return to Futaba, or if another institution will take charge of conserving and exhibiting them. Now invisible and uprooted from their place of origin, these artefacts nevertheless continue to represent the foundations and collective memory of this community. They symbolize the particularities and transformation of the region: the forced displacement of its people and the impossibility of living and moving freely there still today. In other words, all of which the disaster could possibly “undo” in the heart of this land. The catastrophe, which put into question the nature of Japan’s infrastructure as well as the ecological consequences of capitalism, has diminished, if not totally lost, its potential for socio-political alterity.

Through the collective characteristic of the artist’s work, Les nucléaires et les choses attempts to examine this situation and create a platform of research and discussion both at the heart of and beyond the Japanese community. The exhibition at KADIST presents for the first time an installation based on various expeditions and active research recorded by the artist in Fukushima. Included is a multi-channel video installation edited from a symposium organized and filmed by Fujii in Iwaki city, Fukushima in collaboration with the Fukushima Museum in October 2017. It convened a group of experts in anthropology, archaeology, political science and history, as well as (former) museum curators from the Futaba Town Museum of History and Folklore, Hiroshima Peace Museum, and the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, among others, to discuss ideas linked to the memory and representation of the catastrophe.

Intertwining a documentary and performative approach, testimonials and future scenarios, the works of Hikaru Fujii reveal a story more complex than its dominant version. Following the journey of this collection of artefacts, contaminated by their layers of history, as well as the ideas of those who imagine their future, Les nucléaires et les choses sheds a new light on this ongoing catastrophe, confronting us with our actions on this “damaged planet.”[1]

Les nucléaires et les choses is part of the curatorial collaboration between KADIST and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT), Japan (2017-2020). Initiated by curators Kyongfa Che and Elodie Royer, this collaboration unfolds across a series of three exhibitions based on artistic forms of engagement in contemporary society.
It is realized thanks to the help and support of French Institute, Contour Biennale 9, École des Beaux-Arts de Paris and Yoshiko Isshiki Office, Tokyo.

[1]Expression borrowed from the title of the book Arts of Living on a Damaged Plane, ed.Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt,(University of Minnesota Press, 2017).

Curated by Kyongfa Che and Elodie Royer


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