Basel, Switzerland
Closes June 29

After the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake on March 11, artists asked themselves, “What is the role of art in the face of such disaster?” Though it became clear that it can be used to raise funds, there is one fundamental goal of art that I believe will always remain the same — to express ideals.

As a response to Japan’s recent catastrophe, I formed ART-AID a committee of artists, curators, editors, architects and students who have voluntarily given their time and resources, and whose collective aim is to raise not just money but also hopes and aspirations for Japan’s new future. On June 11, exactly three months after the earthquake, ART-AID opened “Remembrance of the Future to Come,” a special exhibition that is running alongside Art 42 Basel, the largest art fair in the world, in Basel, Switzerland.

The exhibition, featuring the work of five well-known Japan-related artists, aspires to help us understand the present and consider what the future holds for us by engaging viewers in acts of remembrance.

Naoya Hatakeyama, who was born in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, looks to memories of the past with his photographic series, “Zeche Westfalen I/II Ahlen.” These images — frozen explosions of the destruction of German coalmines — now evoke a new meaning for the artist who lost a member of his family in the tsunami.

Shinji Ohmaki has created a new installation, “Echo — Eclipse of Life,” for which he uses natural sunlight to highlight images of flowers. By capturing daylight as it shines through a window and falls on the floor, Ohmaki projects an eclipse caused by the window frame’s shadow over his images — a visual metaphor of the disaster and the cycle of life and death.

“Thanks a Million,” Ingo Gunther’s project, is a pine-planting initiative, for which he is distributing pine seeds to visitors who he hopes will find a way to plant them to help revive parts of the beautiful Tohoku coastline that were destroyed by the tsunami. The trees also will also signify the longterm relationship between those in stricken areas and people all over the world.

Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree,” which attracted a lot of attention on the exhibition’s opening day, invites visitors to attach wishes to it, and social-political artist Joseph Beuys’ only existing lecture-video in Japan is also on show.

For those who are able to visit Art Basel in Switzerland, please take this opportunity to also think about Japan. Donations from visitors to “Remembrance of a Future to Come” will go to Ashinaga Ikueikai, a Japanese NGO that provides mental and educational support for orphans affected by the disaster. Galleries supporting ART-AID that are participating in Art 42 Basel are also donating 1 percent of their sales to their local Red Cross organizations.

I sincerely hope that we can continue to expand the network of support for Tohoku overseas through the power of art to stir our imagination and inspire hope for our future. (Shinya Watanabe)

Shinya Watanabe is an independent curator based in Tokyo and New York, and a contributor to The Japan Times. To find out more about ART-AID, visit www.artaid.jp.

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