Program 1

 

Film Screening “The Oblivion – beyong Chernobyl” “Alexei and the Spring” by Director Seiichi Motohashi

 

12.03.2018 @Ghent University  

Synopsis

The digitally remastered version of Berlin Film Fest winning documentary “Alexei and the Spring” was released in November 2016. It was screened as the world premiere at IDFA 2016 in Amsterdam. 32 years after the Chernobyl and seven years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the documentary film “Alexei and the Spring” caputures the audience by its profound message converyed through a beautiful portrait of ordinary lives in an extraordinary context, an isolation from the rest of the world. The people who stay living on contaminated lands and their miracle spring depicted in the film indicate anger against excessive civilization of humankind as well as hope born from the people who live with nature. The original 35mm film has drawn more than 80,000 audiences across Japan(as of 2016).  The soundtracks composed and played by Ryuichi Sakamoto adds a multilayer of flavours to the film. The first scene unveils with an alarming sound of a Geiger counter which highlighs the dissonance or irony of apprent beauty and contamination overtoned by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s beautiful tune that he compoased in New York just after the 9.11. The Repuelic of Belarus, with its lush virgin forest and fertile soil, is known as “White Russia.” As of today the worst yet nuclear accident in human history, Chernobyl, spewed radioactive contamination across these lands. An evacuation advisory was issued to south eastern Belarus, and most of the six hundred residents of Budishche left their village,but fifty-five elderly people and one youth, Alexei, remained. The forests surrounding the village, the farmlands, and their crops were all contaminated. Miraculously, the spring at the heart of the village still brings forth pure, uncontaminated water. The villagers believe the Spring which was there long before their existence flows from the source of somehting sacred in nature, which keep them alive and carry on their lives in this beautiful yet isolated lands.

 

Program 2

Photo Installation “The Abyss – Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary People” by Shuji Akagi 

12.-26.03.2018 @Ghent University  

Shuji Akagi had started using Twitter prior to the Great East Japan Earthquake, murmuring now and then, but when the disaster struck, the reactor meltdown that is, he tweeted more and more, and the tweeted photographs rose gradually on his account @akagishuji. Although the effects of the radiation on Fukushima-City and its surroundings, approximately 60 kilometres from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants, were not as bad as the most gravely impacted areas, Akagi responded keenly to various changes and matters he had never experienced before by turning his camera on them. As if on a mission to record everything, he relentlessly and carefully took photographs, some of which he would post on twitter with his comments.

The real time radiation exposure indicators installed in parks, the roadside trees that had been stripped bare to remove contaminated leaves and branches, signs announcing decontamination work in residential areas, contaminated soil wrapped up in blue tarps….. All the subjects of Akagi’s photographs are “foreign objects” that have invaded everyday life. His motivation for posting “foreign objects” on Twitter as an ordinary citizen arose from the need to make it an indispensable and inseparable part of his daily life. For these photographs, the usual standards of judgement, like “good” or “bad” are invalid, instead they present a unique utilization of photography. As followers of Akagi’s post-disaster tweets grew, his work gained the attention of people from diverse fields, such as novelist Miri Yu, and art critic Noi Sawaragi. Moreover, his work went beyond Twitter starting with his participation in the exhibition “Art/Domestic: Temperature of the Future after Takashi Azumaya” curated by Sawaragi in 2013, and contributions to more exhibitions thereafter. (Sawaragi wrote two critical essays on Akagi’s work for an online web journal Art-It and for the “Art/Domestic: Temperature of the Future after Takashi Azumaya” exhibition catalogue).

Fukushima Traces, 2011-2013, was published by OSIRIS Japan with photographs comentary by Shuji Akagi starting from the day after 3.11 of a road riddled with cracks, and ends with a photograph taken mid-2013 at the garden of Akagi’s own house in Fukushima-City where the contaminated soil had been removed and replaced with new soil. Through “The Abyss – The Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary Poeple” Akagi presents the tapestry of unholding sureal realities of a various subjects matter in a chlonological format since the inception up untill this date.

Akagi says, “I would like to record as much of what happened within the sphere of my everyday life. No matter how the media would cover the shining city-scape in the glow of recovery, I want to document the lingering scars of my surroundings.”

Akagi Shuji’s gathering of “traces” continues.