Since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, hundreds of thousands of Japanese have participated in protests against the use of nuclear energy. Even though more than two years have passed, the protests continue to take place every Friday in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence and National Diet Building in Tokyo. Of course, even if we wanted to do so, it would be difficult to participate in every protest each Friday. We have our lives, our everyday jobs. Yet I wonder if there is some way for us to participate in the protests whilst maintaining our lives.
Since I live in LA, I cannot participate in the Friday protests in Tokyo. I feel too distant. However, in 2012, as the anti-nuclear movement was gaining momentum, a leading artist and thinker based in Tokyo, Kenjiro Okazaki, tweeted the following proposal. He wrote, “Even if you can’t join the protests on site, in simply wearing a yellow T-shirt, no matter where you are, you can show that you are protesting.” (As in Germany, yellow is the symbolic color of the anti-nuclear movement in Japan.) This idea could be a key for continuing to participate in the protests whilst remaining committed to our responsibilities, no matter where we may be. Keeping conscious of this idea in our everyday routines is critical to this proposal. If we are conscious that we are participating in the protests, then the everyday itself could become a political action.
To promote such an everyday consciousness, I’d like to introduce a historical artwork. One of the most influential artists in post-war Japanese art, Jiro Takamatsu (1936-1998) was interested in how we could keep fresh eyes in our daily routines. One of his instruction pieces, Remarks (1974), is a proposal for liberating both the body and mind from daily routine. I will reuse Takamatsu’s universal idea in order to update and connect the political moment of Japan in the 1960s and 1970s to the current state of political awareness in Japan.
Friday, August 30, 2013 at 5 p.m. in Nakameguro, Tokyo
I prepared yellow cloth, scissors, safety pins and drinks on a table in the gallery space. In a gesture against electricity dependence / nuclear power, I also turned off the lighting and air conditioning, providing instead candles and paper fans. Printed on a wall was Takamatsu’s instruction piece Remarks 5, with my own instructions added to it. 1
The day was extremely hot, around 97°F/36°C. Participants came and went throughout the day and night. They cut the yellow cloth as they liked and they wore it. Some participants didn’t touch the yellow cloth at all, which suggests that there were a number of different interests. Some came to observe the gesture against nuclear power, some came to observe a historical artwork and its reinterpretation, and some came to observe other audience members’s reactions to the work. Some were just passing by. Other participants sat and talked, some stayed for a bit and then went out into the city. However, all the participants—as well as all the people in Tokyo that day—perspired a lot. Divided across different positions, we nevertheless experience the same bodily responses. The project ran until midnight, but because of the heat I had to lay down for an hour’s rest. Having embarked upon a political action and reconsideration of art history, the bodily response of sweating was ultimately what remained.
This project is an extended project from the Japanese Pavilion at Venice Biennale, 2013.
- 1. Jiro Takamatsu, REMARKS 5 (1974): Try to repeat the content of a specific consciousness as many times as possible. I have added the following above Takamatsu’s instruction: Try to keep conscious about a specific social issue, in this case “anti-nuke,” as long as possible while you are wearing yellow color.