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Culture & Communication

ELIN O’HARA SLAVICK, AFTER HIROSHIMA


After Hiroshima cover

TEXT BY JAMES ELKINS – POEM BY MIZUNO JUN’ICHI
DAYLIGHT BOOKS – APRIL 2013

Exposition au Daylight Project Space, Hillsborough, North Carolina, USA —  Avril 2013
Présenté au Jeonju Photo Festival, War and Memory
Directeur artistique Hoon Jung, Jeonju, Corée, Mai 2013

English below

Avec After Hiroshima (Daylight Books, Avril 2013) Slavick s’intéresse sur un mode visuel, poétique et historique à l’ampleur de ce qui a disparu et ce qui est resté suite au bombardement d’Hiroshima.
Les photos délicates et paisibles de Slavick contrastent vivement avec les images terribles et violentes habituellement associées au bombardement de la ville japonaise. Dans son texte, James Elkins qualifie After Hiroshima de « projet dur, triste et beau. » Ce sont des images de perte et de survie, de fragments et de vie, d’architecture et de peau, de surface et de choses invisibles – comme les radiations.
Le livre combine des cyanotypes qui évoquent les débuts de la photographie, des grattages de surfaces et d’objets irradiées pris ensuite en photo, et des photographies plus traditionnelles réalisées par Elin Slavick au cours de ses multiples voyages à Hiroshima entre 2008 et 2011. Le procédé d’exposition est essentiel au travail de Slavick, exposition aux radiations, au soleil, à la lumière, et à l’Histoire.
Les textes qui accompagnent les images sont en anglais et en japonais.

 Image

Cyanotypes of a Canteen and Eucalyptus Bark

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Front and Back of Leaf from a 2nd Generation A-Bombed Chinese Parasol Tree

Les images sombres et poétiques de Slavick capturent l’essence d’un événement terrible. En tant que première américaine à avoir accès aux objets du Peace Museum, elle s’est attachée à saisir l’importance d’Hiroshima de manière éthique et respectueuse. Le travail qui en résulte est complexe et expose avec dignité et tendresse le paradoxe de rendre l’insoutenable visible en tant qu’artiste, spectateur et témoin.

 

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Rope Around an A-Bombed Willow Tree

On August 6, 1945, the U.S. bomber Enola Gay released an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima, killing 70,000 people instantly (with another 70,000 dying by year’s end from their injuries). While many are aware of this catastrophic event that ushered in the Atomic Age, the aftermath of the bombing is less well documented, and the United States in particular has paid little attention to preserving a visual record.

American artist elin o’Hara slavick (born 1965) was raised in Portland, Maine by activist parents who were engaged in the anti-war and anti-nuclear power movements. Her first memory of Hiroshima is attending a Hiroshima Day memorial service in Portland’s main square on August 6 in the 1970s during which she read a firsthand account of the atomic bombing by a woman who survived it as a little girl. She was unable to get through the story without choking up. Slavick’s art, which explores ethical ways of visualizing the barbarism of war, is informed by the activist environment of her early childhood.

After Hiroshima (Daylight Books, April 2013) is slavick’s attempt to visually, poetically, and historically address the magnitude of what disappeared and what remains as a result of the dropping of the A-bomb. These are images of loss and survival, fragments and lives, architecture and skin, surfaces and invisible things — like radiation. Slavick’s quiet and sensitive photographs are in sharp contrast to the painful, graphic images associated with the aftermath of Hiroshima. In his essay, James Elkins describes After Hiroshima as a « sharp, sad and beautiful project. » The book combines cyanotypes that evoke the early days of photography, rubbings, and traditional photography made by slavick over the course of visits to Hiroshima with her family from 2008 through 2011. The accompanying texts are published in English and Japanese.

The process of exposure is critical to slavick’s work — exposure to radiation, to the sun, to light, and to history. The subject of slavick’s cyanotypes are A-bombed objects borrowed from the collection of the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum, many donated by victims of family members, among them a slender comb, a round canteen, a deformed glass bottle, a piece of melted metal, and a belt buckle. She also gathered natural forms from local parks, bits of dead flowers (presented on the book cover), leaves, and tree bark. She placed the specimens on paper soaked in cyanide salts and exposed them in natural sunlight. These relics that were exposed to massive doses of radiation over 67 years ago, are exposed again here by slavick as ghostly white shadows floating in a sea of indigo blue. From the artist’s perspective, they memorialize those that vanished in the first seconds of the blast leaving behind their own white shadows. The work brings to mind the ethereal 19th century botanical photographs of Anna Atkins.

Another series presents photographic prints of rubbings of A-bombed surfaces and objects located around the city, including a bridge, a bank countertop, a floor, a keyhole, a tree, and a rusty door. Slavick placed Japanese paper directly onto the surface and rubbed it with a black wax crayon to create a « negative » which was then made into a silver gelatin contact print. Through this tactile, intense process, she traced, touched, and « photographically » documented the many sites of survival, destruction, and exposure. The book also includes traditional photographs of atomic traces that are visible everywhere, including an image of an A-bombed weeping willow tree that her children touched and kissed while saying « sorry. »

Through her shadowy, poetic images, slavick captures the very essence of a profound event that many are still grappling to understand. As the first American photographer to gain access to document the artifacts of the Peace Museum, she faced the challenge and responsibility of capturing the enormity of Hiroshima in a manner that was ethical and reverential. Her resulting work is complex, and confronts with dignity and tenderness the irreconcilable paradox of making the barbaric visible, as artist, viewer, and witness.

James Elkins, a writer and art historian, contributes an insightful essay about the work entitled On An Image In A Bottle, and author and advocate Mizuno Jun’ichi contributes a moving poem entitled Do Walk QuietlyKyoko Selden provides a sensitive and careful translation of the book.

Bios of the Contributors:

elin o’Hara slavick is a Professor of Visual Art, Theory, and Practice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BA from Sarah Lawrence College. Slavick has exhibited her work internationally and is the author of Bomb After Bomb: A Violent Cartography, with a foreword by Howard Zinn. She is also a curator, critic, and activist.

James Elkins‘s writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. His books include: What Painting IsOn Pictures and the Words That Fail Them, The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing, Art Critiques: A Guide, and What Photography Is, written against Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. He is E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mizuno Jun’ichi is a Kobe-born author and advocate of what he calls Pax Turistica (peace through tourism). The family moved to Hiroshima in the fall of 1944. He was fourteen when he was exposed to radiation and lost his parents and all three younger siblings to the bomb. After a long search he located his mother, who had been accommodated at an elementary school. She died on September 14, 1945. According to a prose poem he wrote, she died while he was away briefly. Upon his return to Hiroshima, a friend took him to the riverbank. In a little hollow under a tin plate were his mother’s bones. He picked a few and put them in a brown envelope, and his friend wrapped it in white cloth. Do Walk Quietly is the final poem in his Symphonic Poems: Hiroshima, a verbal symphony in four movements.

Kyoko Selden, who translated the text into Japanese, is coeditor of More Stories by Japanese Women Writers: An Anthology that is the sequel to Japanese Women Writers: Twentieth Century Short Fiction. Her other translations include Kayano Shigeru’s Our Land Was a Forest, The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Honda Katsuichi’s Harukor: An Ainu Woman’s Tale, and Cho Kyo’s The Search for the Beautiful Woman: A Cultural History of Japanese and Chinese Beauty. She taught Japanese at Cornell University until her retirement. She died in January 2013, before the release of this book. It was her last professional project.   

Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography via books, a magazine, and multimedia programs. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine-art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large. For more information, visit www.daylightbooks.org.
Informations

Hardbook
24 x 24 cm
128 pages / 56 col.
US $34.95


Liens
http://www.unc.edu/~eoslavic/

http://www.japanfocus.org/-elin_o_Hara-slavick/3196

http://elinhiroshima.blogspot.com/

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