After the Deluge
In the West, Noah’s Ark is the best-known response to risingwaters. The tsunamis that afflict the East also speak to the imagination.
The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1832) by Katsushika Hokusai is perhaps the most well-known Japanese art work in history. The mighty cresting wave, with greedy ‘hands’, make those present inconsequential and submissive to their force. Ai Hashimoto (Takaoka, Japan) creates, piece by piece, her own post-tsunami-world. Her paper Unfamiliar Landscape after Pink Tsunami (2016-) shows a potential reconstruction after the worst catastrophe imaginable.
The recent tsunamis in the Indian Ocean (2004) and near Japan (2011) are grafted onto the memories of many. The destructive power of water, people and animals swept inland, cars drifting and the utter devastation left behind… As a result of Fukushima’s nuclear power station being damaged and some 100,000 inhabitants having to be evacuated, the environment became uninhabited, desolate. Hashimoto pushes the consequences of a virtual deluge a little further. Based on her own imaginative powers and dreams, she has developed a narrative in which nothing else remains after a tsunami but pink sand.
From heaven the imaginary figure of Kinoko – a non-descript being with a head the shape of a mushroom (in Japanese, a kinoko) – has landed. Googling ‘Kinoko’ you’ll find pictures of mushrooms and manga-like cartoon characters or dolls with bowl hairstyles like a mushroom cap. Hashimoto’s Kinoko is not based on such cartoon characters but comes from the Japanese pantheistic way of thinking. It brings new life. The yellow bag it carries – which contains the essence of life – releases balls into space that subsequently cover the pink desert. Vegetal forms grow from these balls to create the Unfamiliar Landscape. Life can begin anew. Kinoko – it has seen the light through a variety of forms – has stayed home. But the paper landscape has found its way to Museum Rijswijk.
The smaller works are built out of black paper covered in ink. The bigger installations have shapes created through a different process: risograph printing on black paper. A risograph, like stencilling, is a Japanese version of a photocopier/printer. It uses heat to burn holes into a stencil, after which the ink is pressed through the holes. Special (pink!) lighting complements the final work: the alteration of the landscape is complete.
Ai Hashimoto’s storytelling keeps becoming more and more tangible. Alongside several sketches/books and the Kinoko statues, the paper landscape grows with every exhibition. In this sense, there is a very real pink tsunami swelling over the globe.
Text by Frank van der Ploeg