you saw nothing (2023 – on going)
The 'you saw nothing' explores the long-standing discrimination towards and lack of understanding of the Hibakusha (the Japanese term for people exposed to the atomic bombs) by those of us living in the Nuclear Order. They suffered genetic and long-term psychological effects and physical pain caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
Seventy-eight years after the bombings, the number of Hibakusha is dwindling, and their traumatic experiences are being lost from Japanese cultural/collective memory. In addition, the atrocities perpetrated by Japan have engrained themselves into Japanese sensibility, preventing many from discussing the atomic bombings. Since the war, Japan has been incorporated into the highly sophisticated structure of the Cold War between East and West – assigned a role as the front line for US and Western capitalism – thereby accepting today’s precarious peace. However, recent world events, including the invasion of Ukraine by a nuclear-armed Russia, have exposed the instability of the Nuclear Order. It is now clear that the social legacy of the atomic bombings in Japan has largely gone untold.
To visualise the gaze of people who do not know the Atomic Light, I collected Second World War glass fragments and other artefacts bearing the marks of radiation from the Motoyasu River adjacent to the A-bomb Dome. These objects have been abandoned to the river’s depths – a state of neglect acting as a metaphor for the Hibakusha’s memory. In collecting these artefacts, I attempt to collect memories and show the Hibakusha through the lens of artefaction – the viewer's perspective is drawn down to the individual behind the lens of the iconic atomic bomb mushroom cloud.
I interviewed eight survivors of the bombings, photographing their portraits and scenes of the two bombed cities. The glass fragments are used as a lens to reveal a world based on the Nuclear Order, confronting Japan's often contradictory pre- and post-war identities. These photographs are partially obscured – a haze is cast over their faces and the cityscape from the 78 years of dirt, algae, and crust on the glass damaged by the blast of the atomic bomb. The filter also abstracts the image, creating the effect of photosensitisation caused by atomic radiation. The photos reflect the extraordinary destructive power of the atomic bomb, and the traces of its light cast far into the future. They represent the boundary between Hibakusha and the people who have not shared this horrific experience.
21.7cm x 21.5cm
Uncoated Munken 120gsm paper