Japan Syndrome

Art and Politics after Fukushima

Three years after the tsunami in northeastern Japan and the damage to the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, many people, including a growing number of artists, have got beyond the agony and speechlessness that set in after the disaster. They are starting to recognize that the catastrophe uncovered many hitherto undisclosed rifts within Japanese society, and made it possible to describe the myths of the post-war period, the belief in unrestricted economic growth through cheap energy and in the ability to control nature and technology, as an existential threat to the population.

The festival Japan Syndrome lasts for ten days and considers the question of how Japanese society and the language of art have changed since the events of March 11, 2011. Theatre artists such as Toshiki Okada, Akira Takayama and Takuya Murakawa, visual artists such as Tadasu Takamine or Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani and musicians such as Toni Kudo, the band Sangatsu and documentary filmmaker Hikaru Fujii will present new works in this framework, of which some are being created in close cooperation with HAU Hebbel am Ufer.

"When posed the question 'What can art do?' in a critical situation, in which we are exposed to not only a natural disaster and severe accident, but to acts of political, economic and psychological violence, a contemporary art becomes deeply unsettled, in an everyday world that urges 'problem solving'. 'Festival', as a form of religious ritual art created during the pre-modern era, was needed as a technique to regenerate, that is, to reconstruct affected areas. However, art from the modern era on, which attempted to separate itself entirely from its societal functions under the call for freedom, was stuck and afflicted. It stood in silence, faced with the decision of whether or not the technique to overcome crises could be included into the plasticity of artistic expression. Even in such circumstances, one artist makes a decision, opening to a relationship with social networks beyond the individual level. Another artist places songs in the lungs of each victim who had swallowed seawater, retaliating with poetic means against a crumbling world struck by the nuclear reactor accident. Yet another artist attempts to continue the pre-3.11 individual and independent art production, carrying the physical sensation of bearing the silence within. I think if there is anything that art can do, it is something along the lines of breaking the silence, utilising numerous means to do so."

The original text by Hikaru Fujii comes from the exhibition catalogue “Artists and the Disaster – Documentation in Progress” (2012) at the Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito (Japan) and is also printed in the HAU-festival publication "Japan Syndrome".

Concept: Annemie Vanackere, Christoph Gurk
Artistic collaboration/production managment: Jana Bäskau, Ulrike Krautheim
Production assistant: Masahiko Yokobori, Kristin Buddenberg
Graphic design: Jürgen Fehrmann, Sonja Deffner
Artistic direction & management: Annemie Vanackere
With special thanks to: Stéphane Bauer und den Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, The Japan Foundation, Hans-Thies Lehmann, Hiromi Maruoka, Takio Okamura, Prof. Dr. Steffi Richter, Makiko Yamaguchi


Supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.