Project area:Sendai City (Miyagi Prefecture)
The Story of Objects,the Symbol of Sakura
Saving Lives by Passing on to the Next Generation
A Message which can not be told by words and pictures
After the earthquake our eyes were met with scenes never witnessed before.Huge ships stranded upon the land,buildings collapsed from their foundations,road signs twisted by the force of the tsunami,boats and cars upon roofs...While the removal of rubble progresses,the organization MMIX Lab,headed by Murakami,has initiated a project to preserve these surreal monuments.Murakami,who was hit by the disaster while at Miyagi University of Education,soon responded to the situation by bringing other NPOs together and forming "3.11NPO+" in order to coordinate the distribution of resources to evacuation centres not yet reached by the authorities.When the need for urgent aid had eased,Murakami began to pursue,as an artist,the question of "what can art do?"
"As I was delivering food and materials to areas around the coast,I was deeply shocked by the severity of the landscape and I thought about the importance of accurately preserving such scenes in order to tell future generations.Many people have kept documentation on video,photos,through witness statements and scientific data,which are of high significance.However,I thought it is actual objects which hold the deepest message."
Currently,while pursuing research in the coastal areas of Miyagi prefecture,Murakami is calling upon many organizations for their support.The clearance of debris is advancing each day,and the project is competing against time.But in order for it to take shape,it is vital to have the approval of local people.
"People have experienced suffering right before their eyes and so it is to be expected that there are voices raised such as "we don't want to see this anymore","let's clear up as soon as possible".However,it is important to consider not only the current opinion but also how we will inform the next generations of what has occurred here.When new generations are met with such scenes removed from reality,it will trigger dialogue and questions like "why is this here?" And through these conversations,an awareness is born which may prevent similar disasters in the future.If through the passing on of these stories we can save lives,then I think the project will have been a success."
MMIX Lab does not approach the distorted landscape before their eyes and the experiences of those affected by the disaster as "data",but rather in the "3.11 Memorial Project" they attempt to tell the stories of the town through physical objects.Furthermore,the group is also developing the "Sakura Project" which aims to visualize the line to which the tsunami reached inland.
"This project intends to create such a visualization through the planting of cherry blossom trees along this line.Over the years these trees will grow and flower between March (the time when the Tsunami occurred) until May.I hope this line of trees will carry a message which will prevent a repeat of the destruction caused by the tsunami."
Creativity can build an even better town
The "3.11 Memorial Project" and the "Sakura Project" are both long term projects to be developed over many years from now.It is Murakami's wish that local people will develop a new town while incorporating the memorial- like presence of such physical witnesses to the disaster.
"As we have suffered so much from this disaster,I think it has no meaning to return the town to its original state.We have to make something better than before.In order to achieve this we need "creativity".When I talked with members of Kesennuma cake shop,the master told me that their house and business had been taken by the tsunami,but they still had the recipes with them.They told me that as long as they have these recipes,they have the ability to restart again.Upon hearing this I thought,no matter what the situation,as long as we have creativity we can find a new path."
It is not a case of returning the town to its state before the disaster but of reviving it to have a new function,this is Muakami's concept of community development.
"What has happened is said to be a natural disaster which occurs once in a thousand years,and unimaginable things have been left behind.I think we should consider these objects as resources of our cultural heritage,in the same way as the atomic bomb dome of Hiroshima.The initiatives of the "3.11 Memorial Project" and "Sakura Project" can not be realized by MIMIX Lab alone.We have to develop the project by gaining the understanding and support of locals who have been affected by the disaster.The contributions of people throughout Japan and the world are also important.It would be ideal if many individuals take an interest in this project and give their support to it."
(The interview was conducted on July 8, 2011 at Miyagi University of Education)