Seventy years after President Harry S. Truman dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II, artist James Carman commemorates the people who lost their lives during the unprecedented bombings. Through video, photographs, and mixed-media works, his ongoing solo exhibition at Brooklyn's PointB gallery, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy: A Remembrance of Hiroshima 70 Years On, explores the lasting affects the bombings have had on Japanese culture over the course of the last seven decades.
“It is important to remember because the same dynamic of hatred is perpetuated today in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. How can we destroy entire cities without considering the human cost?” asks Carman about of the contemporary events that led him to create this body of work. “Dehumanizing the enemy so that any type of violence is condoned allows the cycle of violence to be perpetuated over and over. The rights of enemies are never considered.”
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The questions Carman raises about the justification of force during war can be seen in the large digital print work, After the Rain. In the portrait, Carman recreates an atomic bomb explosion as black-faced figures dressed in suits stand stoically watching a white-faced figure in traditional Japanese dress struggle to survive the bombing. The cartoonish nature of the image is meant to drive home to the viewer the catastrophic seriousness of the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “The photos represent two warring forces of fascism engaged in a death lock. What does that bring? Annihilation,” Carman tells the Creators Project. “The Art exhibition’s title, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy refers to Ecclesiastes 12:5 and the vanity of human existence,” he adds.
Carman also utilizes the Butoh dance performance movement that grew out of a reaction to the postwar traditions of 1950s, as a point of departure in the show. The videos works included feature a song series, also called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. The songs play as Carman’s videos restage a power struggle between Axis and Allied forces. “[They] also has a beautiful, elegiac dance by Butoh Master Katusura Kan that commemorates those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” explains the artist. ”The last piece is called "Atonement," and portrays all sides singing together in harmony.”
For Carman the show says as much about the present as it does the past: “These works deal with contemporary Japan in that they are a reflection of the extent we haven’t fully processed and examined the horrors of the past,” he explains.
The Grasshopper Lies Heavy: A Remembrance of Hiroshima 70 Years On is view at PointB through September 11, 2015. For more information about the show, click here.