dusty window in an evacuated village
There are not words to express = to describe = to cover = to explain = to summarize = to bear enough witness = to fix the sickening stomach, to make radiation visible, to store the mounds and heaps of contaminated matter.....so I will transcribe my notes here - scribbled in a little memo book on switchback mountain roads and driving through exclusion zones, no-stop roads with policemen in hazmat suits sometimes (and other times bareback, exposed)......
"The business of living is the best defense against death" - Primo Levi (from reading a September issue of the New Yorker on the train)
"Live ordinarily so that you can be violent and extraordinary in your work" - paraphrasing Julianne Moore quoting Flaubert (also from the New Yorker en route to Fukushima)
Katsumi, a medical doctor working with those suffering from radiation exposure, a colleague of David's from Osaka, taught, shared and showed me so much: "Iodine has a half-life of 8 days; cessium 137 has a half-life of 30 years; cessium 134 has a 2 year half-life...so after 4 years since the Dai'ichi disaster, some exposures have been decreased by 1/4."
"Fruit is less contaminated than soil." But the persimmons and chestnuts and rice and much much more could not be eaten for quite some time. It has been 4 years since the accident but Dai'ich is still leaking.....
"Wild mushrooms and sunflowers absorb cessium." (I made cyanotypes of these today...stay tuned)
mushrooms made by Nobuki Yamamoto, my tour guide of Iwaki, friend of Mayumi Matsuo who studied with my sister Susanne at Carnegie Mellon and now teaches at Hiroshima City University
There are 54 nuclear plants in Japan. Sendai is the only one in operation now - after the U.S. poured millions of dollars in a campaign to undo "fear" and force the reopening.
250 evacuees came to this little mountain village; 650 people live here - half are over 65. They use the old/closed school as a craft/social space for weaving and other activities.
Before the accident the government said 1.0 msv (millisever) per year was acceptable. After the accident, they changed it to 100.0 msv per year!!!!!! Double standard = citizens have no choice / are forced to accept it.
The green tarp covered rectangles stored neatly everywhere are contaminated matter...
Voluntary evacuees get no support (a little from local governments but it was stopped after 2 years).
Many industries in small villages have closed since the accident: rice; silk worms; daikon radish, restaurants....there are no doctors or clinics in most of the towns. An ambulance takes at least 30 minutes...Bamboo shoots are too contaminated to eat, like mushrooms and fish...
One family has moved 5 times since the accident in 2011 and still can not return home. Some can return during the day but can not stay. Residents are tired of talking about radiation, of tracking it, measuring levels of cessium...It is very hard to measure - people are old and may die before cancer develops and people move away - little - if any - incomplete data / cohort."
the bridge to the Dai'ichi nuclear plant
An old man who runs the the elderly craft center says, "Of course I am anti-nuclear but before the accident, when Tepco was building Dai'ichi, I was a high school student and we studied it. It is illegal for high school students to openly protest. There were only 10 protestors when they opened Dai'ichi. Tepco and the Japanese government ran heavy pro-nuclear campaigns, propaganda for a profitable future. They provided industry jobs - so they built industry schools. Before Tepco, everyone could live on their land; had what they needed; were not rich. Tepco changed everything - twice - in building / opening Dai'ichi and then with the accident."
What is the most important thing right now, I ask of Katsumi. "To tell the residents the full truth. They have to know, to understand the risk."
A road sign/banner reads, "Use Solar Power to help us recover." And I must say that the solar power panels are one of the only things that give me hope - that and the people in Japan fighting against the government - the majority against nuclear power.
Kawamata + Namie towns, driving through, completely contaminated / radioactive. I get out of the car and make photographs.
Another road sign reads, "The power of one person is not enough but if we cooperate we can recover."
I had a dream in Fukushima or in Iwaki that I had Alzheimers/dementia. I could not stop suffering and was suddenly home 2 months early and had no idea how I got there. My body absorbed harper's body. Amy White had a telephone number for a doctor and a theory but neither helped.
RADIATION IS INVISIBLE. Katsumi almost raises her voice in the care, "CLOSE THE WINDOW" as we drive past the Dai'ichi nuclear power plant and the dosimeter is registering 6.0 - 600x the acceptable level.
(Everything seems to be irradiated and the whole way "home to Hiroshima by train" I make "energy drawings" - seeing energy everywhere = breaking up.....)
Katsumi asks me what my imagination tells me now that I have been here. I do not know. Survival. Living with / in radiation. I am sick. My body aches. Absorbing. THERE ARE NO OTHERS. We are one. Tarkovsky. Bergman. The poisoned landscape. The unseeable made real. Fields full of numbered, heaped, archived, stored, covered - with black hoses shooting out of the tops - black bags full of contaminated, radioactive soil and debris, matter - nowhere to put it - mountains of death. No one is telling the truth. Some villages are 100% evacuated - Japan has the highest suicide rate in the world - after Finland. A 25 year old commits suicide in osaka because he was " a gay" - as if his body was irradiated. There is no way out or around this other than to RID OUR WORLD OF NUCLEAR POWER AND WEAPONS - hand in hand they destroy.
I want to work on an anti-nuclear anthem book with David in lay language.
I want to make sculptures out of lead as a material to protect, as gravity, as impossibility.
bags of radioactive waste and gravestones
wet wood for Amy White:
That's my sweet little room on the 2nd floor of the World Friend Center's "villa" - the bldg on the street.....
THE GRAVE OF THE LIVING
A GRAVE FOR THE LIVING
evacuated surf / beach house - on a tour with Nobuki Yamamoto through Iwaki
Wild Boar teeth on Nobuki's table - for Carrie Alter
Here is Nobuki - a kind man who drove me around for 13 hours straight, stopped everywhere I wanted to stop, introduced me to the top curators in the area and showed me his studio and hometown of Iwaki - a beachfront tourist town where so much was lost and people died from both the tsunami and nuclear disaster. He organizes shows in old schools (as many schools are closing in the area) .....
Pumpkin and shiso leaf tempura back in Hiroshima - I am determined to grow some Shiso in NC
Fresh tofu in Fukushima City with Nobuki and bottles of local sake///
An artist tells me, "Rumor has it that 500 workers died (or are dying) at Dai'ichi - their bodies kept and silenced at Fukushima University Hospital - in secrecy and for research. And that 3 firemen died in Dai'ichi - their bodies never found and never reported. We - residents - can not get the truth. I moved here - to Iwaki, my hometown - from Tokyo after living there for 20 years - to surf, fish and have a garden, seat wild mushrooms, studio space. But now I have to catch and release the fish, can't surf, can't eat the mushrooms or have a garden. I worry about cancer." His dog is bone thin and he has a set of wild boar teeth on his table. The invisibility of radiation is thick and tangible even though life goes on as we know it.
Below is Nobuki's studio - very much like Andrew Johnson's - they would love each other! Full of work and stuff and energy and old pieces.....
taxidermied wild pheasants from nearby
fire pit in the studio floor entranceway
his studio is in the cool mountains on a stream
back on Iwaki beach:
A Girl's Shoe
is this a storage site in progress? nobody knows. NUCLEAR WASTE is an eternal problem. THERE IS NOWHERE SAFE TO KEEP IT or a safe way to get it anywhere....
once soil-rich fields are stripped of their topsoil....
a wound, a stain, a map of impossibility
Small red rashes on my cheeks, a long silence, a dis-ease, so much electricity, too much power, chimneys, grids, industry - chemical, gas, coal, plastic - never mind the radiation, cessium, plutonium, radionuclides, scattered, fluttering, under over into around everything, us all - We can not escape the invisible miasma, the half-lives of particles that sink into us like teeth into meat..
That line of sea teeth, small and bleached beside a flattened red shoe of a little girl - both creatures lost at sea - tsunamied, irradiated,
Here was one of the highlights of my trip up north - a Japanese breakfast in my hotel - - -
illustrations in a childrens book - i love them all.....
a child's photograph of contaminated rice
KUMA / bear
curry corn ramen - did not need dinner that night!
Nobuki and me at the Iwaki Museum of Contemporary Art at the Guri Gura show