Monday, October 12, 2015

The Hiroshima Panels @ BU's Stone Gallery until Sunday

Sara June in Peacock at Boston University's Stone Gallery

Last Thursday I went to see Lord and June perform their work Peacock at Boston University's Stone Gallery where six of Iri and Toshi Maruki's fifteen Hiroshima Panels (原爆の図) are currently on display as part of an exhibit titled A Call for Peace. The exhibit is only open through this coming Sunday, October 18th. I would encourage people to stop by if you have a chance. They are worth seeing in person.

Max Lord in Peacock at Boston University's Stone Gallery

Peacock uses Butoh, a Japanese performance art that "arose in 1959 through collaborations between its two key founders Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo". I don't think I've ever seen a Butoh performance before and didn't know that's what it was until my friend told me. Given that BU Today had called the piece an homage to the Marukis' work, I was expecting something eerie. From the description of the work on Lord and June's site: "The originator of Butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata, used Butoh-fu as a way to stimulate his dancers' movements and their relationship to space through the use of evocative text and imagery. As in the Hiroshima panels, Hijikata used grotesque form to translate states of unconsciousness into consciousness."

Along with the panels there are a few artifacts that survived the bombing (on loan from the Hiroshima Peace Museum Memorial Museum) as well as an exhibit from Mayors for Peace, an international organization founded in 1982 by Takeshi Araki, who was the mayor of Hiroshima at the time and also a hibakusha (survivor of the atomic bombings of Japan). The exhibit includes an overview of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a brief history of nuclear weapons development, and an appeal to the public to call on our leaders for disarmament. This part of the exhibit is located in The Annex, a small room outside of the main gallery.

Artifacts that survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

It opens with an introduction from the current mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Kazumi Matsui and Tomihisa Taue. It's interesting to see mayors working as anti-nuclear weapons activists. This is a role that every mayor of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has undertaken since at least the 1960s. One of my American friends went to the Hiroshima Peace Museum Memorial Museum in the 1990s (I've never been) and he told me he was really struck by the protest letters that mayors of Hiroshima have been sending to countries around the world since 1968 every time there is a new nuclear test. These letters are printed on plates that are affixed to pillars. Some were so recent that the plates weren't ready yet so they had taped paper copies to the wall. It really drives home the point that the museum isn't just a warehouse of history but that we're at risk every day of repeating Hiroshima and Nagasaki every day.

If you can't make it to the gallery I have some photos of the exhibit and video from the performance, but seeing the photos won't have the same impact as going to the gallery in person. Please be warned that some of the photos and artwork from the Mayors of Peace exhibit are extremely graphic (they included dead bodies and the mutilated bodies of survivors). This is the stuff that's omitted from or glossed over in US history classes. Note that the article in BU Today lists different hours than are listed on the BU Art Galleries website which says that the Stone Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5pm, except for Thursday when it is open until 8pm. I wasn't able to confirm their hours because they are closed on Mondays. The Stone Gallery is free and open to the public.

Petition X, 1955

Thanks to the attendee at the AARW/NAPAWF Kimono Wednesdays panel who mentioned the exhibit during the Q&A. I'm not aware of any publicity being done to the local Japanese and Japanese American communities so I might not have heard about it otherwise. (The exhibit was included in the October New England JACL newsletter.)

Update 10/14/15: I spoke with Joshua Buckno, the Managing Director of the BU Art Galleries today and found out that they did reach out to some local Japanese groups and academic departments as well as internal student groups and departments. It's not clear how much those organizations did to promote this exhibit and related events. It wouldn't surprise me if some found it too political, although it's also a busy time of year for anyone in academia.

I asked how A Call to Peace came to BU. Someone on BU's faculty knew the show was touring and suggested it. The BU Art Galleries try to make sure that their exhibitions have academic value for BU and contacted the Department of History of Art & Architecture and the Center for the Study of Asia who were both interested because of the historical and academic relevance.

  • Videos & photos from Peacock
  • Photos from A Call to Peace: The Hiroshima Panels and artifacts
  • Photos from A Call to Peace: Mayors for Peace exhibit

See also:

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