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Afterimage Requiem 1/108

"Afterimage Requiem 1/108" is one of the 108 human sized prints which were created with the artist's body, sunlight and light sensitive paper(C-print). The radiation that my grandfather was exposed in Hiroshima pierced through his skin and inscribed itself onto his genes and onto my own; our bodies are now being captured through time and history, film and DNA.

Afterimage Requiem: Installation

"Afterimage Requiem" is a large-scale visual and sound installation containing 108 human-scale photograms and a 4-channel sound work made by my collaborator, Andrew Keiper. Keiper’s grandfather was an engineer who participated in the development of the Atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project, while my grandfather was a victim of the bombing of Hiroshima. The installation was installed at the Baltimore War Memorial.

Sungazing 85/108

"Sungazing 85/108" On 08/06/1945, at 8:15 AM, my grandfather witnessed the A-bomb destroy nearly everything in Hiroshima. I remember him saying that day in Hiroshima was like hundreds of suns lighting up the sky. I have created a scroll made by exposing Type-C photographic paper to sunlight. The pattern on the print/scroll corresponds to my breath. I pulled the paper in front of a small aperture to expose it to the sunlight while inhaling, and paused when exhaling. I repeated this action until I breathed 108 times.

Infertile American Dream

"Infertile American Dream" is a triptych of C-prints, which were created by exposing light-sensitive paper to sunlight on the day the 45th US president was elected.

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About Kei

Baltimore City

Kei Ito's picture
Kei Ito is a conceptual photographer working primarily with camera-less image making and installation art. Ito earned his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2016, following his BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2014.    Ito’s work addresses issues of deep loss and intergenerational connection as he explores the materiality and experimental processes of photography. His work deals with the trauma and legacy passed down from his late grandfather, a survivor of... more

Sungazing

On August 6th 1945, at 8:15 AM, my grandfather witnessed a great tragedy that destroyed nearly everything in Hiroshima. He survived the bombing, yet he lost many of his family members from the explosion and radiation poisoning. As an activist and author, my grandfather fought against the use of nuclear weaponry throughout his life, until he too passed away from cancer when I was ten years old. I remember him saying that day in Hiroshima was like hundreds of suns lighting up the sky.


In order to express the connection between the sun and my family history, I have created 108 letter size prints and a 200 foot long scroll, made by exposing Type-C photographic paper to sunlight. The pattern on the prints/scroll corresponds to my breath. In a darkened room, I pulled the paper in front of a small aperture to expose it to the sun while inhaling, and paused when exhaling. I repeated this action until I breathed 108 times. One hundred eight is a number with ritual significance in Japanese Buddhism and culture.

If the black parts of the print remind you of a shadow, it is the shadow of my breath, which is itself a registration of my life, a life I share with and owe to my grandfather. The mark of the atomic blast upon his life and upon his breath was passed on to me, and you can see it as the shadow of this print.

Afterimage Requiem

Afterimage Requiem is a large-scale visual and sound installation containing 108 human-scale photograms and a 4-channel sound work made by my collaborator, Andrew Keiper.

The installation probes the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the intertwined family histories between Keiper and I. On August 6th 1945, at 8:15 AM, my grandfather witnessed a great tragedy that destroyed nearly everything in Hiroshima. Meanwhile, Keiper’s grandfather was an engineer who participated in the development of the Atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project. Two generations later, Keiper and I are great friends and collaborators which may have been thought to be impossible for the people a few generations ago.

The 108 photograms show shadow negative exposures of my body on the ground, with the viewer looking down upon it. These c-prints were exposed to sunlight due to my grandfather’s description, “that day in Hiroshima was like hundreds of suns lighting up the sky,” haunting me through my artistic practice. The radiation that my grandfather was exposed to pierced through his skin and inscribed itself onto his genes and onto my own; our bodies are now being “captured” through time and history, film and DNA. The number 108 holds significance in Japanese Buddhism, a number that embodies redemption from the evil passions we possess. As Keiper’s sound plays above in the air, my body lies on the ground, our grandfather’s positions are echoed in the space but our stances have changed. Each print is a prayer for the future.

This installation grapples with this history while asserting its pertinence to a contemporary audience living in an increasingly unstable political landscape. My photograms and Keiper’s 4-channel sound work portrays the bomb’s production created using the recordings made at atomic heritage sites in New Mexico and Chicago; the installation seeks 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.

Am I Am a Mutant

When I was born, the first thing my grandfather did was to make sure I had a full set of
fingers and toes, since many children of a-bomb survivors were born with varying birth
defects. I remember my introduction to mutants and mutation; first, by my fascination with
childhood heroes that gained superpowers through radiation and then later on, in contrast,
witnessing my grandfather passing away from cancer. I have been in limbo and stuck between the perpetual question of “Am I a Mutant” and succumbing to the answer that “I Am a Mutant.”

Am I Am a Mutant consists of over 200 sun-fused photograms made from light sensitive paper, marquee letter plates, and sunlight. Alongside with framed photograms of captured shadows of superhero figures related to radiation. The use of marquee plates typically deployed to display and inform people of upcoming movies and plays, reflects the theatrical and spectacular nature of nuclear warfare depicted in the media and people’s resulting denial of reality around the actuality of a nuclear strike as if it is something illusionary.

All the poems are “written” vertically from left to right, echoing the duality of my cultural upbringing in both Japan and America. The lack of the space between the words further abstract these writings reflecting the difficulty of hearing the hidden and obscured voice of victims behind the blinding façade of vivid cartoons and catchy headlines of today’s nuclear climate.

Infertile American Dream

Infertile American Dream is a triptych of C-prints, which was created by exposing the light-sensitive paper with the sunlight of the day Trump won the presidential election.

Infertile American Dream is a triptych of C-prints, which were created by exposing light-sensitive paper to sunlight on the day the 45th US president was elected.

The increase of nuclear armaments worldwide, and the ramping up of nuclear tensions between the US and North Korea harken back to the terror of my grandfather’s experience during the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. By his account, it seemed as though the sky was lit by hundreds of suns. On that day, the very fabric of life that he knew, his friends, family, and even the landscapes of the city were completely annihilated. Any trace of home seemed to never have existed, as if his home was never even built.

As a 3rd generation A-bomb victim who is now a resident of America, I find the chaos in the current political establishment unbearable. Political divides have deepened, and nuclear war seems closer on the horizon than it has ever been in my lifetime. Blind fear directed towards to a group of people through prejudice and misunderstanding caused by media; the realization that the home, in both physical and spiritual sense, can be taken away as quickly as thirty minutes by a single bomb and the chain reaction that follows. After we reach the point of no return, the American Dream will be unsustainable--an empty and barren wasteland filled with nothing but ash left for future generations. Like the unassembled home in Infertile American Dream, our children will not be able to have a chance to conceive their ideal vision of hope for the future.

A Nation Follows Where It Leads was made in 2018 as a follow up to the project.
A C-print photogram made with an American Flag on 06/14/2018 which is both US Flag Day and President Trump’s birthday.

Ravaged Flower of the Future

Ravaged Flower of the Future is a triptych of C-print photogram made with sunlight and a sunflower grown with water I gathered from Fukushima after the Daiichi nuclear powerplant disaster. The photograms are placed upon the wall above a pile of burnt sunflower seeds titled, Death's Seedlings.

Sunflowers were a common sight among many on that bright morning in Hiroshima in 1945, a last possible sight for many. Today, sunflowers are believed to have an ability to clean radioactive soil by consuming the radiation through their roots. The study is still on-going and it may not be the short/quick solution, but I wonder if in the near future, a scientist will create a sunflower that can consume the radioactive material and can live off the radiation. And if so, it is only natural to think that the post nuclear apocalyptic world will be covered with sunflowers for the next few hundred years. Nothing but sunflowers, blowing radioactive ash in the contaminated wind.

Luminescent Shadows

Luminesce Shadows is a series of 240 glass slides projected by three carousal projectors, 80 slides each. The images captured on the slides were formed by exposing the plates to extreme heat and causing soot to form. Then, using a brush and paint medium, I fixed the soot on the glass plates. The carousals automatically advance each slide every 30 seconds, creating an endless moving image; an imagined reenactment of the ash of Hiroshima and a future prediction of nuclear winter.

As the tension of potential nuclear war rises, many people whom live in major city such as, NYC, San Francisco, DC, Baltimore and others are always in fear of complete annihilation by atomic light. This series of work seeks to explore the possible visual result we may experience in the future of the skies covered by luminesce ashy shadows.

Hiroshima 08/06/2015 8:15am

Hiroshima 08/06/2015 8:15 is part of my Sungazing project, and is comprised of a photograph of the sun and a burnt Japanese dictionary. The photograph was taken in Hiroshima on August 6th 2015, at 8:15 AM, which is the exact time the A-bomb was detonated 70 years prior. The picture was taken from a specific location where the sun would correspond visually to the place in the sky where the bomb was exploded.

The burnt Japanese dictionary shown in the view is the one that identical to the dictionary once owned by my grandfather. He once told through his book, upon returning to his home after the bombing, he found his cherished Japanese dictionary incinerated, and saw that the ink had turned white on the blackened pages, as if it were rendered into a photographic negative.

At the same time that the radiation from the atomic bomb was inscribing itself into my grandfather’s genes, the flame from the bomb burnt everything in Hiroshima, including the Japanese dictionaries my grandfather cherished. This archive of history and culture became ash, thereby recording the destructive force of this new human technology. One of my grandfather’s friends told me once “there is no word that can describe what we witnessed that day”.

Ash Lexicon-Silverplate

Ash Lexicon contains 108 film canisters from 1940s filled with ash from a burnt Japanese dictionary.
This project has a component from Hiroshima 08/06/2015 8:15am, which features a Japanese dictionary that is identical to the one once owned by my grandfather. Upon returning his home, my grandfather found his cherished Japanese dictionary incinerated, and saw that the ink had turned white on the blackened pages, as if it were rendered into a photographic negative. At the same time that the radiation from the atomic bomb was inscribing itself into my grandfather’s genes, the flames from the bomb burned everything in Hiroshima, including the Japanese dictionaries my grandfather greatly cared for. This archive of history and culture became ash, thereby recording the destructive force of this new human technology.

The two-channel audio component was composed by Andrew Paul Keiper. Andrew’s grandfather was an engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project, helping to develop the A-bomb. The audio is a soundscape inspired by the specially modified B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers used in the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Dubbed Silverplate Series, these planes not only carried and dropped the bombs, but performed other aspects of the missions, including scouting and observation.

We sought in these bodies of work to find a mutual understanding, to contemplate the sorrow and scope of the attack, but also to discover its effect in the contemporary world. In an increasingly unstable political landscape, where our democratic processes seem ever more in peril, the potential for nuclear disaster looms over us, seemingly as dangerous now as it was at the height of the Cold War.

Thirst

Duration: 7 minutes 18 seconds
Collaboration with Alexa Rinn (PhD Peabody Institute of Music)

Thirst is based on the story my grandfather once told me. If the death was the first thing the A-bomb gave to the people in Hiroshima, burnt flesh and unbearable thirst was the next. Many survivors jumped into a river to ease their deadly thirst. However, many of their throats were so burnt that they drown due to being unable to swallow the water. By the next morning, the river was filled with bodies staring at the sky and the sun.

Performed at the Walters Art Museum.

Only What We Can Carry

Only What We Can Carry is a series of 85 Contact C-Prints of Japanese Internment Camp (Executive Order 9066) posters exposed with various everyday objects. These everyday objects represent what I would bring with me if I had one day to gather my belongings. This poster became a symbol of bigotry and paranoia towards a specific group of people, and it echoes in these times where these same prejudices have reemerged for another group of people. Denial and misjudgment lead by blinded authority is a phenomenon close to what we have been witnessing in recent political climates.

In the past, it may once have been a set of treasured letters brought to the camp during WWll. In these times, it could be a photo-filled cellphone or a laptop. But the suffocating decision of choosing between items of meaning and use to carry with you, or leave behind, must be the same. These objects, and these reaching gestures are all exposed with the poster, radiating through the C-prints like X-rays. They are juxtaposed in together as a warning, a warning that bridges the mistakes of the past with our time in the present.

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