Aya Takada during one of her kids programs
It was just a couple of years ago that filmmaker Shunji Iwai brought his niece, Aya Takada to GR2. When the giant Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, she was the only person I knew from the Sendai area. When I asked Shunji Iwai about Aya, he said straight faced, “I thought they all died.” Yet days later, he found out they were all fine except the gallery flooded. Then in some time, a Facebook status update said something like, “cleaning up the gallery”. Since then, Birdo Flugas which is located on the first floor of her family’s home is cleaned up and Aya is working hard on her space, projects and public programs. The photos tell the story as well as those are at the bottom of the page.
GR: You run a gallery in Sendai of all places. Can you tell me about your neighborhood? Did it change after 311?
AT: My gallery is located in a small city called Shiogama, near Sendai (about 30 minutes away). Shiogama is a port town. After 3.11, many shops and houses were torn down. Less buildings are around birdo space now. There’s more vacant lots. Compared with the other affected areas, Shiogama was less damaged because the Urato islands were protected the city.
GR: Your gallery was flooded in the tsunami of 311. Can you tell me about that time? Where were you? What you were thinking about? How bad your gallery was affected? (at left is the family home and the gallery at the bottom)
AT: I was working at my gallery “birdo space” at 2:46pm on 3/11, as usual. The quake was crazily big. The gallery shook badly. The racks and shelves fell down one after another, I thought the building itself would collapse at a stretch.
My gallery is located near the Shiogama Port, like about 150m from the port. I heard the tsunami alert soon, saying “3m Tsunami is coming..etc” urging to head for higher ground. I didn’t think it would happen, but then the alert was saying “6m tsunami is coming…” and then “10m tsunami is coming…” Then finally I felt something weird and dangerous. I went to see my family (near the gallery). We decided to run to my brother’s apartment (12th floor). There was about 40-50mins until the tsunami actually arrived in Shiogama. When I arrived my brother’s apartment, I opened the window right away. The tsunami arrived. The road and streets we just passed were flooded.
I was shaking while looking at what was going on, in front of me.
I went to see the gallery next day, the building itself was fine, but the fallen artworks, products, racks and shelves, books, office data, my bike, and cars were all soaked with sludge.
GR: Tell me about the art you show?
AT: I introduce art works by North American artists and Japanese artists.
I am interested in youth culture and youth art communities. I show various kinds of art, from drawings to installation works.
GR: Is your gallery style common?
AT: It’s pretty unique here in Japan, because it has both sides of the essence of “artist-run gallery” and a “commercial gallery.” The location of the gallery seems to be unique to people too.
GR: Is the art you show something that the area supports?
AT: Yes, the city of Shiogama, the prefecture of Miyagi supports my projects as well as giving me grants and project money. I also give them creative support. The young people in Miyagi are pretty interested in what I present and work on. They’re mostly 20-40 year old people living in Miyagi. There are not many young people in Shiogama where the gallery is. But the audience is from everywhere, like Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka….
GR: Did original art get damaged? Are there any changes you made in case this may happen again?
AT: Some of the original works were damaged, but those were my private collection, so it was ok. For a while, I was worried about the survived art works. I didn’t want to keep the collection in my gallery. One gallery supported me by keeping the artwork in his gallery in Gunma. So, now, all the art works are stocked there. I really appreciate the network of art galleries.
I kind of think it won’t be happening again. I mean I really hope not.
I wasn’t alright for 3-4 months, I guess. I felt fine supporting affected people in my town, because I could arrange my thoughts and feelings.
Now I would like to work with the artists who want to save the world. (giggling). I mean, the artists who care about what’s going on. creative people can suggest rich ideas to enjoy life, even though the Earth is acting up and the economy is bad.
Although it’s of lesser consequence at this point, you can see what she saw and you can hear Aya’s voice in this video telling people to run.
For more info see birdoflugas.com