2011 will be entered into the annals as a year of historic convulsions. In terms of citizens and governments, society and art, media and spectacle, throughout the year numerous themes came and went, and then after disappearing, reemerged once more. Certainly in Japan, the events of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster have been – in all senses of the word – shocking, and strongly color how the year will be remembered here.
Exhibited in January-March at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Simon Starling’s Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima) (2010-11) proved to be prophetic. Inspired by the British sculptor Henry Moore and the double-lives of his works Atom Piece and Nuclear Energy – the one intended as a symbol of peace, the other as a commemoration of nuclear development – the project recounted Cold War-era atomic energy machinations through the framework of Noh theatre. In its investigation of double identities and intrigue, and its delirious concatenation of images and reflections and images of images, Starling’s work takes on yet another layer of meaning following Fukushima and the emergence of details about the power structures behind the disaster.
Similarly, amid concerns about how art can respond to March 11, the photographer Lieko Shiga both gives new significance to the meaning of art and also shows how inarticulate and inadequate the discourse of art can be in terms of how we relate to artifacts. In the wake of the tsunami, Shiga has been painstakingly washing photographs salvaged from the rubble of the rural community of Kitakama in northern Japan. As opposed to rhetoric, her actions are a sustained and immediate physical response to the almost irreconcilable issues about the meaning of those photographs.
In their thoughtfulness and patience, these two artists, Starling and Shiga, suggest a model for dealing with crisis. As part of our year-end special issue, we recognize them with in-depth features, accompanied by our survey of Things Worth Remembering and insight into the year just passed and the year ahead from two special contributors, Roger M Buergel and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, respectively, in Retrospect/Forecast 2011/2012.
– The Editors
THINGS WORTH REMEMBERING 2011
Things Worth Remembering 2011