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Panel 10 | 8:30-10:30 | ROOM B

Saturday, October 29, 2016
8:30-11:00  ~  Panel 10 ~ ROOM B

10 - Activism

“281_Anti Nuke’s Graffiti and Japanese Political Subjectivity,” Victoria Oana Lupascu, Penn State

  • My presentation takes graffiti art as an example of affective dissent. Graffiti facilitates a critical assessment of the relationship between dissent and resilience, two concepts that help define what Judith Butler calls the “speakable and the unspeakable” disposable subjects in the context of Japan. My presentation has two interconnected layers of analysis. In the first analysis, I examine the figure of the dissenting artist, the rhetorically disposable subject who mediates the transition into my second analysis, that of the actual disposable population – the unspeakable. While drawing on graffiti by the Japanese artist 281_Anti Nuke, my presentation engages the biopolitics of Michel Foucault, and Giorgio Agamben to discuss the importance of affective dissent and resilience in negotiating agency and subjectivity inside the paradigm of “letting live and making die” in the Japan. I conceptualize my project as having two focal points that negotiate the relationship between graffiti images and their linguistic signification in approaching the unspeakable disposable populations, namely: the state’s viewpoint and the perspective from vulnerable dissidents. Graffiti, the art of the unspeakable, lives, breathes, and proliferates in the geographic space of Japanese cities, leaving a trace that invites interpretation and giving dissent a visible embodiment. There is tension between affective dissent on an everyday level and the dissent of graffiti art, which is visible on state-owned buildings, traffic signs or means of transportation. I argue that this tension, embodied in the performative aspects of 281_Anti Nuke’s graffiti paintings and graffiti-like stickers, literally transforms his graffiti into a form of guerilla warfare: they not only contradict mainstream media messages of post-Fukushima Japan, 281_Anti Nuke’s inscriptions also turns smooth, supposedly orderly city surfaces into zones of political indeterminacy, where a passer-by’s engagement with graffiti harbors the potential of shifting one’s political subjectivity.

"When Words Fail,” Doug Slaymaker, University of Kentucky

  • AJLS 2016 prompts us to think of words, images, and Japan. I will consider the “image” of post-311 “Japan” more through photographs than “words.” The artists of this inquiry respond to an ancient conundrum: how to express the inexpressible? How to represent the “unrepresentable”? Or, in the case of Fukushima, how to make visible the invisible—namely, radiation? I will be referring to the work of photographer Takeda Shinpei, ikebana artist Katagiri Atsunobu, and novelist Furukawa Hideo.

    Furukawa’s Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure shows us that the light of a crisp fall morning—the light of the title that is—appears “clear” although we know it has been clouded by radiation. Even with Furukawa’s maximalist torrent of words, it is not enough to get the “image,” to convey the images, to represent the experience. His frenetic writing highlights the anxiety of insufficiency: its incessant attempts and compulsive nature underscores the impossibility to put words to, and thus capture, the “image.”

    Takeda’s approach is to gather soil samples from locations around Fukushima and allow them to expose a photographic sheet. The result looks like time-elapsed photos of twinkling stars and grouped constellations. What has been imaged, however, is the invisible menace, a beautiful killer infused in soil. Image, not words; imaged, not described; photos of the invisible.

    Katagiri approaches this through a series of site-specific works using flowers found growing within the highly radioactive evacuation zone. Flowers are bright, beautiful, fragrant; they are offerings to those who have died, been swept away, and lost. They are placed in buildings bearing the scars of the disaster. We see the arrangements, but the flowers “image” the loss and lack. The photographs “image” the aesthetic beauty of the flowers; they “image” the loss and lack, the death and decay. These too try to make visible the invisible.