Fall 2016

  HA 192A | CCN: 16443

Undergraduate Seminar: Representing “3/11”: Cataclysm, Trauma, Memory, and “Slow Violence”

Gregory Levine,

Thursday | 2:00 - 5:00PM

This seminar seeks to learn from artists in Japan responding to the seismic, tsunami, and radiological disasters that struck Japan on March 3, 2011 and to ask larger questions about representation and disaster: how and where does creative response take place in the aftermath of hyper-scale natural destruction, horrifying loss of life, and multiple forms of dislocation and trauma? How do the visual arts express individual and collective meanings and visualize home, landscape, and “forbidden zones” and “wastelands,” as well as ongoing but not necessarily visible conditions of natural and human-caused precarity? How, indeed, can representation happen; how does it take place, both as active response and in relationship to physical, geographical, and ecological place? How do “aftermath” and “art” push against each other, how does visual expression make sensory (sensible) what is non-visible, and how might art refuse the (human) conditions and politics that contribute to precarity in conjunction with geophysical or planetary events? How might the arts help heal?

Engaging the work of multiple artists—including Arakawa Tomoo and Ei, Chim↑Pom, Hatakeyama Naoya, Kawakubo Yoi., Shiga Lieko, amd Suga Yusukei—we will consider how 3/11 representation witnesses, struggles to understand, heals, disobeys, and protests specific human causes and responses. How have such artists deployed or upended “traditional” or established media, imageries, formats, and performance? How do site-specific work and off-site/global works respond? How has post-3/11 creative work in Japan sought to change Japan; what sorts of visual and political imaginaries do we find? How have galleries, museums, and web-based and social media shown and circulated art responding to 3/11? How does creative work sustain healing and protest? What can we learn from Japan’s new disaster literatures (shinsai bungaku) and disaster art (shinsai bijutsu)?

Working firstly from the responses of artists to 3/11, the seminar will also consider representation and disaster historically in Japan—noting premodern representations of “misfortune” and the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923—alongside California earthquakes and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Given the radioactive contamination issuing from Fukushima, we will also address artists responding to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to nuclear contamination at the Nevada Test Site.

Key texts for the class (purchase not required) include: Anne N. Morse and Anne E. Havinga, ed. In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11 (2015); Lisbette Gebhardt and Yuki Masami, eds., Literature and Art after “Fukushima:” Four Approaches (2014); Gennifer Weisenfeld, Imaging Disaster: Tokyo and the Visual Culture of Japan’s Great Earthquake of 1923 (2012); Rebecca Solnit, Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Hidden Wars of the American West (1994).
Participants will prepare weekly assignments and complete a formal research paper or, potentially, a historically based multi/alternate-media/format project. The seminar will also address academic research and writing. The seminar may be taken for 2 units.

This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical areas (B) and Chronological period (III).