Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the 11 men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly designed volume has a wealth of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with the natural world, and contributing to their communities. In their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters. Read an excerpt of the book here or here. Read a review of the book here, here, or here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The absurd line

I was visiting Oizumi last week here in Japan, and he has a huge new piece of artwork.  Here's what he said about it.  (I wrote about Oizumi in Chapter One of A Different Kind of Luxury.  If you are enjoying reading this blog, please consider buying a copy of the book, for your self, or for your friend.)

OIZUMI: I made Chernobyl and Fukushima into one object, made into something that looked like the Great Wall of China.I wanted to make something as a memorial, a remembrance of Fukushima. 

At first the government said to people that they have to evacuate to 6 miles away from the plant, then they changed it to 12, and eventually to 18 miles.  (For the US Army they didn't let their soldiers go inside of  48 mile line).  There are farmers there where the 18 mile line goes right down the middle of their garden.  The government tells them that on this side of the line, they can't grow and sell vegetables, but right over here, on the other side, it's just fine.  Total irrationality.  It's like some kind of manga (comic book.)

So I wanted to memorialize this absurdist line.  I want to tell the people of the future that once there was this stupid line.  I made it in front of my house since the line is completely irrational anyway.  They could have put that line anywhere, and both sides are dangerous.  I also I wanted to make something big, something that would last.  So I made this 'objet d'art' here.  It weighs 6 or 7 tons.  It should last for a thousand years.  It's made with a rammed earth technique, and buildings in China made like with rammed earth have lasted 1000 years. 

Inside of the wall, I put a time capsule, inside a tube.  If people find it in a thousand years, they can see the names of all the famous people who said that nuclear power was just fine.  All the academics and journalists and musicians and writers and actors, all of them.  We're suing them in court, and I wanted all their names in there, so that the people of the future can know who they were.

They had the Chernobyl accident and they still didn't see and understand how dangerous it was.  They didn't stop using nuclear power.  It's really just kind of incredible.  Such a terrible thing happened, and they didn't stop.  Twenty five years after Chernobyl, and Japan-and  the rest of the world-just kept using nuclear power.  After the Russian accident, Japan said, “We are smarter, we have more information, we are more careful, we have better technology, it will be safe.”  That was all a lie.

Chernobyl was just one power plant. Fukushima was four. It probably released three, maybe four times as much radiation.  They became unable to control it. 

But maybe humans are just like that: they keep going all the way until there's a catastrophe.  Like in World War Two, the Germans went to Poland, and even though that was bad, they kept going, on into Russia, and just kept going.  The Japanese went to Korea and then Manchuria, and then Mongolia and Burma and on and on into New Guiney, and all the way to India.

They just can't stop, even if they're doing a bad thing.  Humans can't slowly change: they have to go all the way until there's a catastrophe.  Maybe people are just that way.  We have a saying in Japan, and it goes back a long way.   It's in a temple in Kyoto.  “I know what is enough.”   To know 'enough'.  We just don't seem to be able to know what is enough.  Human greed just keeps going and going.  

1 comment:

  1. That quote, “I know what is enough,” is written on the stone basin behind Ryoan-ji in Kyoto.