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Home » January 2008 » Into the Atomic Sunshine

Into the Atomic Sunshine

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 Posted: 09:44 AM JST

New York's The Puffin Room is exhibiting Into the Atomic Sunshine -- Post-War Art Under the Japanese Peace Constitution Article 9 through Feb. 10, 2008. Japan's article 9 renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation. In a climate in which the Constitution is faced with the possibility of being revised, "Into the Atomic Sunshine" attempts to highlight issues and raise awareness of the great influence of the Peace Constitution.

The Peace Constitution allowed Japan to recover from war and helped the country to avoid direct confrontation with other countries for more than 60 years. It played an important role in shaping post-war Japan and has had an enormous impact on the Japanese people.

Although Article 9 has kept Japan from direct involvement in wars, its indirect involvement in wars has meant that Article 9 has helped maintain a twisted status quo. This unique situation has given artists a theme to tackle and express in their works. Numerous artists tried to deal with difficulties such as post-war problems and identity issues. These works are also related to the connection between Article 9 and world peace.

Despite the uniqueness of Article 9, its very existence is, surprisingly, not well known in other countries. This exhibition aims to not only introduce post-war Japanese and non-Japanese art, but to also make Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution more familiar to audiences outside Japan.

Named after the "Atomic Sunshine" conference between the U.S. Occupation administration and Japan representatives which created the Constitution of Japan, this exhibition will investigate the historic significance of Article 9 and the importance of its development, and the fact that there has been no Japanese blood shed as a result of direct military confrontation for 60 years after the end of World War II."

Featured Artists:


•  Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla: Their wry political critique imbues much of their work mixing photography, video, & sculpture. The couple live in Puerto Rico, which has a colonial history analogous with Okinawa's and recent projects have focused on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, a US military test bombing site until 2003. In this link to a video clip of "Under Discussion" filmed in Vieques, the artists note that art that turns subjects upside down force us to look at what we habitually see "in a new light." In this way art changes perception and therefore can change both the perceiver and the world.

Kota Azawa: German-born, San Francisco-based photographic artist.

Eric van Hove: This Algerian-born, Belgian and Japanese-educated global artist conceives exceptionally thought-provoking experimental works. His Off the record (hush hush art show) #2 is a punctual underground underway art show that takes place at various spots and subway stations in Tokyo, hijacking the recently installed X-Cube cellphone-run locker system and transforming public spaces into surprise private art venues.

• Yutaka Matsuzawa graduated from Waseda University's architectural department and spent 1955-1957 in the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship where he studied the philosophy of religion at Columbia University.

•  Yasumasa Morimura is noted for his work's ambiguities between photography and painting.

•  Nobuyuki Ohura is a political artist haunted by Japan's wartime history. He endured vicious harassment and censorship because of his provocative depictions of Emperor Showa juxtaposed with violent Second World War military imagery. His work was displayed and favorably received in a 1986 exhibition at Toyama Museum. But right-wingers campaigned against the museum, which eventually submitted to demands that it burn the 470 remaining undistributed copies of the exhibition catalogue. Ohura lost his final legal appeal against the museum in 2000.

• Yoko Ono

• Motoyuki Shitamichi

Yuken Teruya: Okinawan-born, New York City-based sculptor.

• Yukinori Yanagi: Kyushu-native and transnational artist who also experienced censorship in Japan in the 1980's when the prestigious Fuji Television Gallery officials refused to allow him to hang a series of prints that dealt with imperial identity and official discrimination against Korean nationals. The gallery allowed the prints to remain in a hidden room not open to the public, a revealing gesture that mirrors how individuals collude in societal attempts to hide historical and social secrets that many know about, but don't openly discuss, for a variety of reasons.

• Curator Shinya Watanabe is a Japanese-born, New York City based curator and creator of Spiky Art, a non-profit dedicated to emerging and under-supported contemporary artists in New York City.

The Puffin Room is one of a number of projects of The Puffin Foundation Ltd. which works toward "continuing the dialogue between the arts and the lives of ordinary people." It aims to "open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy."

Jean Miyake Downey is a contributing editor at the Kyoto Journal: Perspectives on Asia (www.kyotojournal.org), an award-winning English-language quarterly published in Kyoto, Japan. She covers multicultural and transnational issues. Drawing on her background as a sociologist and lawyer, she takes an interdisciplinary look at the nexuses between historical and contemporary hybridity and fusion; global cultural trauma and historical healing; the revival and survival of traditional and indigenous cultures; and global human rights movements.

Keywords: Culture

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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