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Work Samples

Afterimage Requiem: Installation at SECCA, NC

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.

Our Looming Ground Zero: Installation at Harmony Hall Art Center, DC

Our Looming Ground Zero is an ongoing installation project. It consists of 108 framed photograms on the ground juxtaposed with 108 suspended Plumb Bobs from the ceiling. Each photogram contains one ordinary word such as “Chair”, “Mother”, “Sun”, which collectively creates a grave monument that is made to the things that will perish in the light of a nuclear explosion.

Sungazing: Installation at Apexart, NY

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, an art billboard located at Woodpoint Rd/Conselyea St in Brooklyn, NYC, near Graham Av L station. The original image was a triptych of C-prints created by exposing a 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.

Sungazing
2015-Ongoing
Unique Chromogenic photogram, Sunlight
Installation: Various, Each Print: 8”x10”

Exhibition History:
2015: California Institute of Integral Studies, CA 2016: Manifest Gallery, OH
2016: Towson University, MD
2017: Museum of Contemporary Photography, IL
2018: Antioch College, OH
2019: Norton Museum of Art, FL
2019: SECCA (Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art), NC
2020: apecart, NY

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.

Afterimage Requiem
2018
Chromogenic Print, Artist’s body, Sunlight, C-print, 4-ch Audio made by Andrew Paul Keiper
Various

Exhibition History:
2018: Baltimore War Memorial, MD
2018: Noorderlicht: Netherland
2019: SECCA (Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art), NC
2020: apexart, NY
2021: Ethan Cohen KuBe, NY

Eye Who Witnessed

Eye who witnessed is a compilation of C-print photograms depicting 108 eyes. This collection of 54 American Downwinders and 54 Japanese a-bomb victims stares out unblinking, homogeneous and anonymous. 108 is a number with ritual significance in Japanese Buddhism; to mark the Japanese New Year, bells toll 108 times, ridding us of our evil passions and desires, and purifying our souls, which can be seen as an act of redemption.

Growing up in Japan, many thought the bombing victims were necessary sacrifices for peace; after moving to America, I heard the same sentiments about Downwinders. Some of the first victims were Americans who worked the first tests unaware of the deadly and invisible threat of radiation. After the war, the US government continued nuclear testing across the nation and these forgotten American casualties, civilians living around testing sites, are now known as Downwinders.

The original images were curated from books, video interviews and images I gathered from my own family album. The prints were then mixed-up before installing, making it unclear on which one is a Japanese or a US victim; nuclear weapons affect everyone the same no matter their nationality. As they collectively stare back at us, their eyes become a monument of nameless atomic testimonies. Will we too become a witness of a radiated light and be sacrificed for the next so called “peace”?

Eye Who Witnessed
2020
108 Unique C-print, Sunlight, Historic Archive
Each Print: 8”x10”, Installation: 100”x150”

2020: Creative Alliance

Our Looming Ground Zero

Our Looming Ground Zero is an ongoing installation project consisting of 108 framed photograms on the ground juxtaposed with 108 suspended Plumb Bobs from the ceiling. Each photogram contains one ordinary word such as “Chair”, “Mother”, “Sun”, which collectively creates a grave monument that is made to the things that will perish in the light of a nuclear explosion.

The full installation incorporating all 108 prints and plumbobs will be shown at Creative Alliance opening on the Hiroshima Day, August 6th, 2021.

Our Looming Ground Zero
2021 - Ongoing
Unique C-Print Photogram, Sunlight, Metal Frame, Painted Plumbob, Waxed Twine
Various

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.

Am I Am a Mutant
2020
Unique C-Print Photogram, Sunlight, Marquee Plates
Various

2020: Full Circle Fine Art, MD
2020: Harmony Hall ARt Center, DC

Infertile American Dream

Infertile American Dream is a triptych of C-prints, which was created by exposing a light-sensitive paper and an unconstructed house model 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.

Infertile American Dream
2016-2021
Chromogenic Print(C-print), Sunlight, Model of House, Wooden Frame
Triptych of 27”x38”

Exhibition History:
2017: School 33, MD
2018: 14x48 NYC Art Billboard Project, NY
2018: IA&A at Hillyer (Hillyer Art Space), DC
2019: Candela Gallery, VA

Ash Lexicon-Silverplate

Ash Lexicon-Silverplate is an installation piece which contains 108 WWII era film canisters filled with ash of a burnt Japanese dictionary and a 2ch-audio composed by Andrew Paul Kaeiper.

The burnt Japanese dictionary stuffed in the canisters is the one that identical to the dictionary 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 accompanied audio made by Andrew Keiper 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.

Ash Lexicon-Silverplate
2016

Burnt Japanese Dictionary, 108 film canisters, burnt 2x4 stud, audio
Various

Exhibition History:
2016: Maryland Art Place, MD
2018: Antioch College, OH
2019: SECCA (Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art), NC

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.

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Kei's Curated Collection

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