This isn’t a Top Ten list like “Best Concert, Best Movie, or Best Toy”. It’s a list that’s as important and there are highlights in them all, but by no means is it a Top Ten of anything. They’re just important as everything else – family, friends, and so on. Maybe I’ll try and turn out a list that’s more like that…
We painted the mural on the wall. That alone was an 11 hour project.
Zen Garage – The year started off great with the Zen Garage art opening just a few days before the new year. Yet, the actual New Year’s Day kicked off with the Oshogatsu program at JANM. It was motor vehicles including the Giant Robot Scion Car I designed but also custom motorcycles and the now vintage David Choe Scion. Thanks to Len Higa and Shinya Kimura for jumping on board. The year began with a GR show in a museum – it’s a great start with you get to do a project with friends, new friends, and a place like JANM. Collaboration can be more fun than doing something alone.
It’s great when artists install their own work.
James Jean Art Show – Aside from it being one of the greater or even greatest art shows of the year, it also indelibly marked the night that the earthquake struck Japan. I recall, it was at the after party, the twitter messages were beginning. An 8.9 quake? The thought of a giant quake was one thing, yes there would be lives lost and yes a lot of damage, but less than an hour later, the Tsunami hit the shores and that’s when the things got real, it became internet news for days straight.
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.