Sep 12 - Oct 27
by Diana Stapleton
A collaboration with Lost and Found: Family Photographs Swept by the 3.11 East Japan Tsunami
The 9.0 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011 devastated the coastal town of Yamamoto. Following the disaster, volunteers collected, restored, and documented found photographs to be returned to the families who lost them. The photographs deemed irreparably damaged by water or bacteria became the impetus for this exhibition at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco.
The exhibition (re)collection—A collaboration with Lost and Found: Family Photos Swept by the 3.11 East Japan Tsunami, is composed of these found images, placed alongside seven artists’ responses to the rescued photographs. The artists included in the show are Mark Baugh-Sasaki, Ariel Goldberg, Mayumi Hamanaka, Taro Hattori, Sean McFarland, Kari Orvik, and Kelli Yon.
The water damage distorts the images so that many are reduced to abstract color swirls with recognizable fragments peeking through. Some images are almost entirely erased. The hundreds of photographs are arranged in grids on the wall, hung in plastic sleeves like those of a family photo album.
Among the artists’ responses, Mark Baugh-Sasaki’s Erosion No. 2 stands out as a provocative re-imagining of the available images. It is a sculptural wall installation with numerous blocks at varying heights that imply topography. On the end of each block is a single photograph illuminated periodically by a projected moving image. The tiny projections are indistinct: distorted motion superimposed over the still images. Multiple and simultaneous projections turn on and off across the surface of the piece in erratic patterns. The movements of the
projections seem intentional and causal though the work’s internal logic is difficult to identify. As a viewer, one’s interpretations of the erratic patterns make the work that much more living, intricate, and human. A viewer struggles to create meaning out of seemingly random patterns of light or, in this case, out of arbitrary patterns of destruction.
Running through (re)collection is the theme of memory: that which people cling to even knowing that it can be unreliable and changeable. Throughout the exhibition, the status of memory becomes even more fragile through the evidence of visible destruction caused by something as seemingly innocuous as water. The process of erosion visible in the photographs begins to encroach on the solidity of memories as well as on the security of the ground we stand on. These images delicately balance the temporal with the existential, exploring meanings that are conferred upon the objects that inhabit our everyday lives.