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After the tsunami; linking the past, present and future in post-Fukushima Japan

Art Action UK would like to present Komori Haruka and Seo Natsumi’s new film installation, ‘under the wave, on the ground’; a film about memory, recovery and hope following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fallout in Japan. 
© Komori and Seo, "under the wave, on the ground"
The film follows Abe Hiromi as she returns to the site of her family home in Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture; a place devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.  For Abe, remembrance is vital in coming to terms with the disaster and for rebuilding the future.  In the film, she tenderly lays out her parents’ clothes in the warmth of the sunlight, in a gesture of honour and commemoration.  For Komori and Seo, small acts such as this one promise a beautiful future.

‘Under the wave, on the ground’ has a subtle political undercurrent.  It asks us to question the apparent separation of social concerns from political concerns following the disaster.  In Rikuzentakata, the government are spending vast amounts of money removing a section of a nearby mountain in order to redistribute the rubble and raise the level of the land.  At first glance, this courageous and diligent effort reassures us that the city has a promising future.  However, the reality is much more complicated. 

Soon after the disaster, those able to attend a local meeting formed a consensus regarding the investment of aid.  Even though the tsunami was 17 meters high, it was decided that the ground was to be raised by 12 meters.  As time has passed local opinion has become more divided between those who have the power and ability to make decisions regarding the development of the city, and those with less influence, who nevertheless have questions about the redevelopment programme.  The media does not cover local issues such as how aid money is to be spent and how the history of the city is documented.  For many residents and survivors, the "positive" actions of the government feel brutal- the ‘top-down’ political process turns a blind eye and deaf ear to the people of the city, who want to link the past to the future, rather than bury it.

Komori and Seo moved to the Tohoku region in 2011 and to Rikuzentakata in 2012 and have been living, working and documenting the lives and feelings of local citizens.  As artists, they are forming a new collective memory in the hope that people in the future will think differently about the way in which disasters such as these can be managed politically.  For many local residents, Komori and Seo are mediators and witnesses in the rebuilding process; they are the eyes, ears and voice of those who feel overlooked by the government.  They are not trying to make a judgement or to point a finger at individuals in political power, but they want people to ask more questions and to be more receptive to the concerns of the residents.

Part of the documenting process is to share these feelings with global audiences.  Seo explains that although their feelings are discounted when it comes to local politics, many residents appreciate the fact that people from other places can hear their voices and empathise.  Above all, the artists want to help those recovering from the tsunami and nuclear fallout to keep their memories alive and sustain a feeling of hope for Japan’s future. 
                         (Text by Jessica Holtaway)

We would like to invite you to see ‘under the wave, on the ground’ at St Paul’s Church, Deptford this weekend; Sat Oct 4th and Sunday October 5th, 2pm-4.30pm.

Please tweet your responses to the exhibition to @artactionuk2014 and follow us on Facebook; Art Action UK