In Niigata, 300 km north of Tokyo and only 190 km from Fukushima, is the world’s largest nuclear power plant. Berlin-based Japanese artist Manami N. grew up there, ignoring the issue of atomic power like many fellow Japanese. Until the disaster on March 11th 2011, she was not even aware of the reactor in her home town. Shocked by the events, she started to learn about the subject and processed her fears, thoughts and emotions into an ongoing audio-visual performances series “Wake up from the brightness”.
Series- 1: Wake up from the brightness (premier 2012 )
Duration 45min/Video collage, Voice work, Music live performance
Manami N. is a japanese experimental composer and performer based in Berlin who has succesfully toured European avantgarde music festivals and art galleries over the past decade. Her most recent work, Wake Up from the Brightness (Erwache aus der Helligkeit, 2012), is a hybrid format and as such, to be situated inbetween film form and live performance.
Structurally, it consists of a 30 minutes first part which is a non-fictional YouTube remix, and a 20 minutes second part in which Nagahari does a live song performance, accompagnied by the video’s soundtrack. Both parts are inextricably linked through Nagahari’s voice, which lends authority to the documentary first part and emotional expressivity to the second.
The unsettling topic of her documentary and performative project is Fukushima; From the perspective of a japanese artist, living abroad, and having followed the dramatic events only through media reports she critically traces the political, industrial and social networks out of which the desaster could emerge, and appeals to those fellow japanese still sitting silently, as if sedated through „sleeping pills“and enjoying naively their comfortable existence in a hightech society used to unbridled consumerism of natural resources and energy in exuberance.
In a personal and poetic way the film connects found news and documentary footage, film clips ,avantgarde sounds, agitprop rhetorics, and thereby creates a cool mashup of video shortform and live performance. Nagahari’s documentary narrative skillfully follows YouTube’s generative ‚narratives’, guided by keywords and tags, tag-clouds and semantic clusters, embedded links, amateur comments and of course, Nagahari’s own “free” associations and voice over. Compiling sponsored and industrial films, television documentaries, and children’s cartoons, amongst others, the overall strategy in this first part is to „follow the money“. The video provides also a critical rewriting of Japan’s official history of nuclear energy and traces the implementation and development of the nuclear industry after the war, a complex process strongly financially supported by the US government.
This leads to stunning results, as when Nagahari dissects the anatomy of a Japanese electricity bill, for instance, or relates photographer’s Kenji Higuchi’s own encounter with nuclear radiation. But using these most ephemeral sources, the artist not only provides information – hardly available in Europe and elsewhere; she also dissolves this information again, turning the video frame into the ‚blank’ in the latter part of her video, thus leaving the viewer with a white screen and the sounds of her music: because it is not information alone, the Fukushima catastrophe and Japan’s future is all about.
(Dr. Patrick Vonderau /Associate Professor & Senior Lecturer Department of Media Studies Stockholm University)
Series-2: The L and R problem (premier 2013)
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