Nishiko's 'Repairing Earthquake project' is exhibited at Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy until 22 March.
Open daily from 9 - 18hrs, free admission
What is your background?
I came here ten years ago as an exchange student to the KABK (Royal Academy of Art), The Hague, to study Photography. But I immediately changed to Visual Arts, which was actually what I wished to do. I finished in 2008 and estabished myself as visual artist.
What kind of work where you making when the disaster happened?
My artworks are about difficult situations in my personal life, trying to find a positive way of dealing with them.
She shows a tattoo on her arm around a burn mark, caused by fried oil in the restaurant she worked at.
Now people cannot say ‘Oh, I am so sorry’, but they will say ‘Congratulations on your new work’.
I also did a project around the language problem I had. I read a random selection of books in German, English and Dutch, and erased all the words I didn’t understand.
When did you decide to create work about the disaster?
I come from an area in Chiba Prefecture where the earthquake occurred but not the ensuing tsunami. So my family was safe. At first, it didn’t seem right to make new work about the disaster. But as many people were worried about my familiy and friends in Japan, it felt as if I was a victim too. Then I thought I have to do something about it. And Repairing fits most with what happened.
In September 2011 I travelled to the disaster area in Miyagi Prefecture. The First Phase was researching the area and working publicly in a studio set up in an exhibition space during the Yokohama Triennale the same year. In her photo book ‘Repairing Earthquake Project’ she documented this phase.
How did you start collecting debris?
I decided to collect randomly in two areas where I got to know people. I walked around many many times, listening to stories, connecting to local people. I met a guy in the area who was washing cups and dishes that survived the tsunami. I was looking for broken things but the things he dug up were still intact. He found them around the area where his house used to be. He lost everything; his house, his wife, his mother. But he went back and found some complete cups and dishes and couldn’t stop cleaning them. He helped me with the project a lot.
How do you go about repairing the objects?
The first thing is to wash it; everything is covered in a thick layer of sand and seawater. Cleaning already feels good. At first, I didn’t have a clue how to repair things. A lot of the time, I didn’t know what some objects were and how to repair them. A shard: I had never seen it before. But this try-out period I had a studio in an exhibition space, and I asked to visitors to help me identify some of the objects.
I only started to repair in the Second Phase, when I had a public studio at the exhibition: “Artists and the Disaster – Documentation in Progress – at the Art Tower Mito Contemporary Art Gallery Japan, from 13 October to 9 December 2012. Then I made display boxes for each object, I now have 138 pieces. For two objects I used gold, because they are exceptional. When I was working on the Second Phase, a Japanese family came to the exhibition and offered me two cracked cups, which they saved from the disaster and asked me to fix them. For all other objects I used glue, because I didn’t want to beautify them.
What phase is the project in right now?
The Fourth Phase, in which I am researching debris that was traveling to the other end of the Pacific Ocean. I did a residency at the Badgast Scheveningen (Phase Three) and came across the subject of marine debris. This resulted in my visiting Victoria, Canada. There is a Marine Museum. They are interested to do something with the tsunami debris that washed ashore there, and with marine debris in general. So the project is still expanding.