Painting and Digital Art
Karen Silkwood, who was a plutonium-plant worker and a union activist, died suspiciously in a car crash in 1974. I painted not only her irradiated body but also her exposed socio-political figure. In a radioactive environment produced by nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, mutation effects represent a reaction or adaptation to poisoning such as may be seen in contaminated bodies that emerge, like ghosts, haunting the human species and its irresponsible behavior, biologically as much as ethically.
Karen Silkwood’s death, which has been the subject of great speculation, was a sort of transmutation (the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form). I posit that mutations, ghosts and ghostly imagery can be seen as placeholders for nuclear materiality (especially low dose radiation exposure) and for the environmental impact of nuclear power. Mutation exists in the in-between of two states and times (a beginning [now past] striving toward an upcoming end [future]), in a process of transformation.
This imaginary character represents poisonous or toxic elements: human hubris and desire for mastery of nature; a capitalist globalized economy bent on extracting the world’s resources for endless growth and capital accumulation; destructive competition for money and power; the exploitation of the poor and the violence of settler colonialism; toxic ideas and politics such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny. These umbral ideas are the ones humanity need to go beyond after the Corona crisis.
Like my works Poisonous General and Destructive Classroom (painting on the header of this webpage), this painting was part of a narrative approach to build a mythical structure named the "Mutation’s Journey." I see this vision in a new light as a pre-Covid world.
These works are based on my eco-art project organized around the cleaning of a neglected family house in 2006. Thinking about the social economy and environmental issues, I raised questions about mass production and consumption behind the economic growth of the postwar period of Japan. I was particularly interested in social awareness or indifference to these issues, as well as the relationship between society and natural ecosystems.
To link the material reality from my actual experiences, I reused my digital photographs taken during the tidying up process. I added digital drawings indicating progress in technology. In the first image, the extinct animal (a Japanese wolf) overlaps on accumulated waste, aiming to layer metaphorically the idea of becoming the subject of my drawing. In the second image, I committed myself to the waste management theory of the "3R" (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle).
In this humid Japanese house, mold, insects, and small animals thrived and coexisted in a human environment. I was swallowed by nature and comprehended that it was not anymore about the human vs nature dichotomy. Understanding this face to face with living creatures as an example of uncontrollable nature, I questioned the human-centered point of view.