As someone who was born and brought up in Bosnia, educated in Germany and is now based in New York, why should artist Amer Kobaslija have reacted as passionately as he did on hearing about the earthquake and the tsunami that struck Japan's Tohoku region on March 11, 2011?

"It's simple," says the 38-year-old artist, who speaks earnestly of his abiding concern about the effects of the disasters, as well as those of the ensuing horrific accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, on the farms, cities and psyche of the affected area. "My wife is Japanese. And through her I've developed a deep, personal interest in Japan and its people and culture. Having grown up in Bosnia in the 1990s, I couldn't help but draw parallels between the human-caused destruction that took place back then in my native country and the calamity that Japan experienced, with its confluence of natural disasters and human failings. I was shaken by the television images and, later, by what I saw in person in the disaster zone."

In the United States, TV reports offered endless video loops showing the big wave sweeping up houses, ships, shopping centers, schools, farms, baseball fields and whole towns in a super-tide of all-obliterating sludge.