Artist raises awareness of tragedy through video display in Bosnian town

by Yasuomi Sawa

Kyodo

Artist Saeri Kiritani decided to take part in an exhibition at a nuclear shelter in Bosnia-Herzegovina as she believes it is her responsibility, as a national of the only country to ever come under atomic attack, to raise global awareness of the tragedies that hit the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The 46-year-old said the two cities immediately came to mind when she was invited to participate in the Project Biennial of Contemporary Art, D-0 ARK Underground at the shelter called ARK in the central Bosnian town of Konjic.

The New York-based artist, who has been frustrated with American people’s indifference toward the 1945 atomic bombings, said, “I’m the only Japanese” among 35 participating artists and added she wants to let more people in the world understand the tragic experience through her work.

In the exhibition, which opened April 26 and will continue until Sept. 26, Kiritani showcased a video featuring the ghost of an atomic bomb victim who died but remains in this world carrying memories of the horrors of the blast and laments about the world not ending the production of nuclear weapons even after the war.

The artist herself played the victim in a white dress, which, she believes, symbolizes life and death.

The video, along with on-screen explanations, is shown in a small, dark room at the shelter, which was built by the army of the former Yugoslavia between 1953 and 1979 as the main center for military operations as well as a shelter for then-President Josip Broz Tito.

On the first day of the exhibition, Kiritani met a male visitor who was moved to tears after watching the video.

Another visitor, a woman, came over and held Kiritani’s hands, saying to her that information about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings must be better publicized.

Having seen scores of gravestones at a cemetery in Konjic, Kiritani thought of the nation’s civil war that started as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia and continued until 1995.

“There, a war just ended,” Kiritani said. “People were sympathetic about atomic bomb victims in Japan as well.”

Kiritani, who was born in Osaka and grew up in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, moved to the United States in 1987. She earned degrees in art at San Francisco State University, the San Francisco Art Institute and the University of Pennsylvania.

Kiritani has been working on projects concerning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States and the dark side of the American dream.

Among her latest works is a sculpture of herself made entirely from rice.