Don’t Follow the Wind: Non-Visitor Center
April 19 - July 13
145 Plymouth Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 United States
- (212) 219-0473
Beyond the threshold of the inhabitable, how does culture contest the crippling effects of long term catastrophe? Don’t Follow the Wind is a project situated inside the radioactive Fukushima exclusion zone in Japan, the inaccessible area surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, established in the wake of the 2011 disaster that contaminated the environment separating residents from their homes, land, and community. As radiation knows no borders, transported on wind and water currents, it is a form of contamination that implicates us all in its unseen isotopic presence.
Don’t Follow the Wind consists, in one part, of an exhibition opened on March 11, 2015—the fourth anniversary of the ongoing nuclear meltdown. This collective project includes twelve on-site artworks in Fukushima developed by artists Ai Weiwei, Chim↑Pom, Grand Guignol Mirai, Nikolaus Hirsch and Jorge Otero-Pailos, Meiro Koizumi, Eva and Franco Mattes, Aiko Miyanaga, Ahmet Öğüt, Trevor Paglen, Taryn Simon, Nobuaki Takekawa and Kota Takeuchi in homes and buildings lent by displaced residents. To this day the area is still closed due to the environmental contamination.
As the exclusion zone remains inaccessible to the public, the exhibition in Fukushima is ongoing but largely invisible—a condition akin to radiation itself—only to be viewed in the future, if and when it becomes safe once again for the residents to return. The exhibition opened in 2015, but there is no clear timeline for public access to these sites, perhaps three years, ten years, or decades—a period of time that could stretch beyond our lifetime.
The curatorial collective Don’t Follow the Wind is made up of Chim↑Pom, Kenji Kubota, Eva and Franco Mattes and Jason Waite. They have developed this long-term project side-by-side with ongoing, off-site correspondences. At Art in General the collective has formed a correspondence with the inaccessible exhibition in Fukushima. As the works in the exhibition cannot leave the zone and remain unseen, an immersive 360-degree video shows the sites of the exhibition but not the artworks. Instead former residents, artists and cultural workers obscure the works with their bodies that are enshrouded in white protective suits. The presence of these figures provides a critical index of the presence of the invisible radiation, the catalyst of displacement. The video interweaves an account of a former resident’s visit to his irradiated home inside the zone and his internal conflict having worked for TEPCO, owners of the Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. The 360-degree video is viewed via headsets created by a Fukushima family who collaborated with artist Bontaro Dokuyama and live just outside of the zone in a contaminated area deemed “safe to live” by the Japanese government. The handmade, sculptural headsets created by three generations, grandson, mother, father, and grandmother, interweave the family’s everyday objects and experiences from this contaminated reality.
Grounding the installation is a large-scale print from Eva and Franco Mattes’ contribution to the project Fukushima Texture Pack. The artist duo has taken a number of photographs inside the zone, not images of wreckage, but rather simple photographs such as asphalt, wallpaper, grass and mattresses—elements that constituted the lived environment of the sites. From these images they have compiled “texture packs” to be utilized by architects, designers, software developers and others. These images from Fukushima can thus indiscriminately infiltrate our physical and digital worlds such as websites, video games, home designs and films.
Don’t Follow the Wind was named for the actions and knowledge of an evacuee from Fukushima who fled south towards Tokyo directly after the disaster to avoid exposure to the fallout borne on a northwesterly wind. As humans have no capacity to sense the presence of radiation, the project posits the critical imagination as a tool to overcome its invisibility and bridge the the ongoing urgency of crisis with long-term attentiveness.
The independent commission investigating the nuclear catastrophe concluded that the cause was not natural forces, but rather the human lack of contingency and active denial on the part of government and industry. Radioactive contamination only comes into being through the techno-cultural practices that construct its recognition. As official information about Fukushima and the residents’ separation from their homes becomes more rare, what other points of contact can culture still provide? If an artwork can’t be seen, what does it mean to imagine its existence and consider all the forces acting on it inside the radioactive exclusion zone? Can our critical imagination extend into forming new ways of living and working together in order to compose a radically different future?