Year in Review – Our Best Yet!

2016 Overview from Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace
Our busiest and most productive year ever!

“Strange Beauty: Autoradiography from Fukushima” marked the 5th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster

This year, the fifth anniversary of the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, we focused on the dangers associated with the use of nuclear power and the lack of a solution for the Fukushima nuclear plant storage or disposal of nuclear waste. We began the year by producing an impressive exhibit, “Strange Beauty: Autoradiography from Fukushima”  by photojournalist Takashi Morizumi. The exhibition was first displayed at the University Art Gallery, University of Pittsburgh and featured 25 beautifully designed panels. Four of the panels, entitled “Downwinders,” featured Morizumi’s photographs of the land, people, and remains of Fukushima with the photographer’s observations and residents’ testimonials.

DownwindersPnlsThese introductory panels contextualized the main exhibition, with each of the 20 remaining panels highlighting an abandoned object from Fukushima that was exposed to radiation. The images glitter and draw the viewer in with their extraordinary beauty, then lead us to reflect on the effects of radiation.

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An excellent panel discussion followed a wonderful opening reception. Mr. Morizumi skyped into the event with a report about the current situation in Fukushima with bags of radioactive soil piled behind him in what was a farmer’s field.  Zeba Ahmed, a recent University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Fulbright Scholar, reported on her trip to Japan and Fukushima. Dr. Patricia DeMarco, a biologist and Rachel Carson scholar, spoke of the dangers of radiation and nuclear waste, for which we have no safe solution.

This powerful exhibit and panel were highly effective in bringing public attention to the Fukushima anniversary and the ongoing dangers and challenges of nuclear energy.

This also marked a new relationship with Scenic Corporation of New York; with the Asian Studies Center of the University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh, which provided support for the exhibit; and with graphic designer Lisa Rasmussen who designed the exhibition panels and exhibition handout.  We also greatly appreciate our co-sponsors, the Center for Disaster Management (CDM); Department of History of Art and Architecture; University of Pittsburgh Art Gallery; and Popoki Peace Project.

Morizumi exhibition pops up around Pittsburgh!

“Strange Beauty: Autoradiography from Fukushima” was designed to be easily transported from one location to another and we are happy to report that it popped up in eight different locations during the course of the year. We are already committed to two displays next Spring. If you are interested in hosting an exhibit, please let us know!

Some of these exhibits were in conjunction with  other events we organized, including Nuclear Free Blast: An Evening of Music, Poetry and Art on June 9 at Biddle’s Escape.  The magical evening included performers Ben Shannon, John Kono, Kei Rush, and the Raging Grannies, poet Sheila Carter-Jones, and reports on nuclear weapons and Fukushima.

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Living with the Nuclear Legacy

The Fall has traditionally been our most active period and this year was no exception. Seventy-one years ago the US dropped the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, destroying the city and its people. This was the beginning of the nuclear age, and Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace recognized this year’s anniversary with three events.

August 1:  A large selection of panels from Strange Beauty were exhibited outside City Council Chambers throughout the day on which Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace received a proclamation from Pittsburgh City Council.  The proclamation commended our work and declared that it “recognizes the need to reduce spending on nuclear weapons to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disabling and dismantling and to redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities.”

August 5: On the eve of the anniversary of the dropping of the bomb, we partnered with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers to show the film “Containment” to a packed audience.  It is a sobering documentary about the storage of nuclear waste for tens of thousands of years to come. How can we be sure that the nuclear waste we store will be safe from leakage for tens of thousands of years? How do we show people many years from now that what is buried under the ground could be lethal to populations in the future? Will English even be understood that far into the future? The film was followed by a Skype conversation with peace activists in both Japan and Guam, where it was already the morning of August 6. They made us aware of the impact of the US military presence in both areas. A large selection of panels from Strange Beauty was exhibited in the theater lobby on the evening of the screening.

August 6:  On the actual anniversary for us, Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace conducted our second annual Bike Around the Bomb event. A group of bikers rode 13 miles around the imagined perimeter of an initial atomic blast to illustrate the extent of the destruction that would occur if even a small nuclear bomb were dropped on our city. At the halfway point, the bikers were able to enjoy refreshments, hear from the Raging Grannies, and view a selection of the Strange Beauty panels.

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Bike Around the Bomb participants taking an art break!
Photos by Robin Alexander

In our last event of the year, we supported a visit by Ronni Alexander of the Popoki Peace Project.  In the presentation titled “Colorful Silence and Sad Laughter,” Ronni spoke about her work over the past five years with communities that had been devastated by the tsunami that hit the coast of Japan five years ago.  Her presentation focused on the emotional impact of a disaster, something often not taken into consideration even by well-intentioned relief efforts.  Her talk was followed by a thought-provoking discussion.  As one participant, Myrna Patterson, later observed: “She brought so much to the table about the healing process after the disaster, about survivors’ guilt, about art as a vehicle for therapy and especially the part about how moving on means leaving something behind.” The presentation was sponsored by CDM and the Asian Studies Center.

We are increasingly hearing arguments that nuclear power is needed as a transition technology. We hope that our events this year have caused many Pittsburghers to conclude that the devastating impact on people and on our planet in the event of an accident, and the absence of meaningful solutions for clean up or the disposal of nuclear waste, mean that the large amounts of money required to build nuclear power plants would be much better spent on renewable alternatives.

We thank the A.J. Muste Foundation, which supported much of our work, allowing us to purchase easels and print literature so that we were able to reach communities throughout Pittsburgh with pop-up displays of the Strange Beauty panels.
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