By Marina King
Viewing the exhibition “A Body in Fukushima” can only be described as both a deeply intimate and extremely intrusive experience. When I first entered the gallery, I was blown away by the intensity of the photographs, expressing pain, anger, and sorrow. What struck me first about the photographs was their unique use of color and Eiko’s placement within the photographs. The setting of the photograph, be it the beach or the train station, informs the use of color in Eiko’s clothing and the color used separately from her body, such as her futon or the red sheet she sometimes uses. On the beach she wears a beige dress with a minimal, almost unnoticeable, pattern. She almost blends in with the beach and the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the expansive ocean, the cause of so much pain and devastation during the Japanese tsunami. In a different vein, when Eiko is photographed on a deserted road, surrounded by wreckage and debris, she is wrapped in a vibrant purple blanket. She is seen as almost using the color to protect herself from the ruins surrounding her. It is the only vibrant color and she is the focus of attention because of it, unlike in the other photograph where the ocean is the object that catches the eye. The use of color in these photographs symbolizes the relationship between people and different areas in the wake of both the tsunami and the nuclear plant fall out.
Eiko’s body, both in position and expression, is also a striking and important aspect in this work. From the tilt of her head to the position of her feet, Eiko uses her entire body to express herself within the photo. During our discussion in class she explained that she was an unusual dancer, not athletic or rhythmic. However, her certain style in dance blends perfectly with the aim of this project. In an article by Charmagne Eckert, Eiko explains that she usually dances with her partner and relies on the intensity within that interaction. Without a fellow dancer, Eiko used the surrounding land as her partner, feeding off the energy from the area. I noticed in the photographs that Eiko doesn’t often show her face. Instead she uses and contorts her body to express and interact with her setting.
Hearing about Eiko’s involvement and interest in environmental issues gave the exhibit an additional layer. She knew so much of the history that was involved in the environmental policies (or lack there of) within Japan. It’s important to recognize that history has an important role in our viewpoints and thus becomes a vital aspect of our decision-making. From World War II to the current birth rate issues within Japan, all are affecting the way Japan sees nuclear reactors. As The New York Times article by Martin Fackler explains, Japan is continuously losing its younger population to the cities and leaving rural towns without many resources and an older generation. The nuclear power companies work to give large sums of money in subsidies and jobs. Although this often doesn’t work in favor of fisherman (a large demographic within these rural towns), they have found that they cannot economically survive without the plants.
“A Body in Fukushima” provides a powerful outlook to an already too big problem within Japan and beyond. The intense imagery works to make the viewer consider the cost of our nuclear energy and the pain it often provides.