Afterimage Requiem is a large-scale visual and sound installation by Kei Ito and Andrew Paul Keiper that probes the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and their intertwined family histories. It was exhibited at the Baltimore Memorial in January, 2018, and will be on display in Spring 2018 at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as part of Andrew and Kei's exhibition Archives Aflame.
The installation includes 108 human-scale photograms made using sunlight, light sensitive paper and Ito’s body evoking those lost in the bombing, and a 4-channel sound work that portrays the places and processes of the bomb’s production, and includes field recordings made at atomic heritage sites in New Mexico and Chicago.
Ito’s grandfather witnessed the explosion of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that killed his family, while Keiper’s grandfather was an engineer who contributed to the effort to develop the bomb. Their collaboration grapples with this history while asserting its pertinence to a contemporary audience living in an increasingly unstable political landscape. Ito and Keiper seek mutual understanding while contemplating the roots, sorrow and scope of the bombing. In an era of overt nuclear crisis unlike any seen in decades, Afterimage Requiem asks the audience to reflect on the ramifications of our current course, and to learn from the past.
The sound component of the work is 32 minutes, 31 seconds in duration. As installed at the War Memorial, two of the four loudspeakers play out natural sounds recorded in the deserts and mountains of New Mexico. This is set against the more narrative sounds of the other two loudspeakers, which tell the story of the coming of war, the establishment of the Los Alamos laboratory, some of the many processes used in creating and refining the fissile materials, and the rainy night before the Trinity Test. It concludes with an evocation of the notion that these remarkable events and processes, rather than bringing an ending, were part of a unsettling new normal. Listeners in the space of the installation have the ability to traverse the space at will, experiencing their own ever-shifting mix of the sonic elements as they move about.
In some passages, the sound straddles the line between sound design and drone music. The latter is a form in which Andrew has long worked, and which he seeks to reinvest with an explicit connection to the sounds of mechanical and electrical processes, which are too often left as subtext or mere aesthetic inspiration within the genre.
In 2016, Ito and Keiper received the Rubys Artist Project Grant through the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance to create Afterimage Requiem. The Rubys were conceived and initiated with start-up funding from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and are a program of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. Further support for this project came from Full Circle Fine Art Services.