On 11 March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the north-east coast of Japan. At that time, Aki Kondo was attending an art university in Yamagata just over the mountain from the disaster stricken area. The school was temporarily closed, forcing Kondo to return to her family home in Sapporo. In this period she created a huge number of drawings and paintings. Overwhelmed by the shocking scenes on TV news, Kondo tried to express the fear, anger and sadness felt by people all over Japan as a result of this devastation; a piercing sense of loss and hopelessness which she describes as “the secondary tragedy”. To those who experienced the earthquake, the world has irrevocably changed after the catastrophe. Those who survived are constantly challenged to comprehend the significance of the natural disaster and the escalating nuclear tragedy that followed.
After graduating and moving to Tokyo, Kondo continued to create artworks related to the earthquake, as if they were prayers to the deceased. HIKARI is a small collection of this larger body of 400 works, carefully selected by the artist for their powerful connection to the memory of the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Alongside these two-dimensional pieces, the exhibition will present her 33 minute filmHIKARI for the first time in Europe. Made of both animated and live-action segments, the film was originally inspired by a dream of reincarnation and hope. Composed by repeatedly shooting oil-on-glass images one frame at a time, this film functions as an extension of Kondo’s paintings, giving them words to convey traumatic feelings which could not be otherwise expressed.
The exhibition title HIKARI, meaning “light,” represents the hope we need in order to live on after the disaster, and suggests that the victims are still with us in this world in the form of light. Despite the fact that we are all surrounded by a world of uncertainty, we still carry on living everyday life because of hikari: hope. In this exhibition, Kondo attempts to reconcile the remembrance of this tragedy and a renewed appreciation of life itself.
This exhibition is held in collaboration with ShugoArts.
A video of the talk can be found here:
About the contributors
Aki Kondo was born in Sapporo, Japan in 1987. Kondo‘s art is born out of her responses to the people and events she encounters in the course of her life. Through her recent practice, she challenges the boundaries of painting, as seen in her film HIKARI, her decorative work in a guest room at Park Hotel Tokyo and in her live performances with musicians. Selected exhibitions include: Artists, ShugoArts, Tokyo (2016); HIKARI, ShugoArts, Tokyo (2015); Takahashi Collection: Mirro Neuron, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo (2015); VOCA, The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo (2014); Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (2012).
Jenny White is the Head of Visual Arts Programme at the British Council. Previously as Arts Manager for British Council in Japan she developed projects and links with independent artists, creative partners and cultural organisations in both UK and Japan and produced the arts programme for festivals UK90 and UK98. Following postings in Thailand in 2004, and London as Head of Arts Development, researching inclusive design and arts and health, she became Director of the British Council in Cuba from 2006-2009. From 2009 in UK, Jenny was responsible for developing environmentally sustainable cultural relations for 8,000 global staff. In 2013, Jenny programmed arts and social media content for the volunteer-run Japan400 to mark the anniversary of the first formal encounters between Japan and Britain in 1613.