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Nuclear Fallout: The Bomb in Three Archives at Herndon Gallery

September 30, 2018

Artist Migiwa Orimo explores the politics, trauma and events that forever changed the world following the 1945 atomic bombing of Japan in a new series of work titled Proofs of Burden. Orimo’s work is presented in the new exhibition Nuclear Fallout: The Bomb in Three Archives in conjunction with FotoFocus Biennial at the Herndon Gallery at Antioch College.

Migiwa Orimo, detail from “Rosy Invisible” installation, 2018

Orimo’s series features five vignettes, each with a different aspect of her research and response to the atomic bomb archives in the following institutions: the Wilmington College Peace Resource Center, U.S. National Archives and the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The work is divided into the following categories: Lists, Rosy Invisible, Souvenir, Spines and Plans, thoughtfully composed into visual compilations of slides, photographs, letters, declassified documents, postcards, and more. Each vignette includes a desk with an errata (correction notes) portfolio, her deeply moving selection of the archival subject matter relating to each category.

Installation view of Migiwa Orimo’s “Proofs of Burden” at the Herndon Gallery

From the exhibition text, Orimo stated: “My desire is to create an installation that asks these questions: What is the act of remembering the past and the present? What gets altered  or erased along the way? And how do these memories become history?”

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Artist Kei Ito explores the 1945 bombings through personal narrative. Kei’s grandfather survived the destruction of Hiroshima, witnessing the horrors of radiation effects on his loved ones. In Sungazing Prints, Kei exposed Type-C photographic paper to light as he inhaled, 108 times.  Kei wrote: “If the black parts of the print remind you of a shadow, it is the shadow of my breath, which is itself a registration of my life, a life I share with and owe to my grandfather.”

Kei Ito, detail from “Sungazing Prints,” 2018

Ito’s installation Ash Lexicon-Silverplate is comprised of a burnt Japanese dictionary, 108 film canisters, burnt 2 x 4s, and audio.  Each canister is filled with ash from a dictionary similar to the one Kei’s grandfather owned.  From Ito’s exhibition text: “he found his cherished Japanese dictionary incinerated by the heat-wave caused by the bomb, and saw that the white page had turned black and the ink on the page had turned white.” Each canister is filled with the ashes of the dictionary and arranged on 2 x 4’s, lit to create an X shadow on the gallery floor.

Kei Ito, installation view of “Ash Lexicon-Silverplate,” 2016

108 is the number “with ritual significance in Japanese Buddhism; the mark the Japanese New Year, bells toll 108 times, ridding us of our evil passions and desires, and purifying our souls.”

From the exhibition website: “In this divided era, where world powers openly threaten to unleash enormous nuclear arsenals, Nuclear Fallout: The Bomb in Three Archives excavates the collective memory of the effects and aftermath of nuclear war. This interdisciplinary collaboration re-examines archival slides, photographs, 16mm films, objects, and documents from three markedly different archives: the U.S. National Archives military training films, multimedia materials from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Memorial Collection of the Wilmington College Peace Resource Center, and the ideologically sanitized exhibits of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, which spotlight Bocks Car—the B-29 bomber that dropped the plutonium Fat Man bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Embedded in the project are two renowned Japanese-American artists Kei Ito and Migiwa Orimo, working within the three archives to create installations responding to the conceptual “scotomas,” gaps, blurrings, and erasures that exist in our faded recollections of these events in history. Through this collaboration, Nuclear Fallout asks its audiences to critically consider the way war is curated in our cultural telling—asking who creates the narrative, whose stories are missing, and who is no longer alive to tell it.”

Nuclear Fallout: The Bomb in Three Archives is on view through December 7th in the Herndon Gallery at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  Learn more at the gallery website or visit the FotoFocus Biennial website.

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