All articles by nat.andreini

Watch The Atomic Artists on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Momentous transformations occur in communities affected by traumatic events. Armed conflicts, occupations, sudden and ongoing political turmoil and natural disasters cause everyday folk to react to tragic issues in diverse ways. From life-saving over-the-top heroism to all-out anarchy of vandalizing and looting, communities are defined by how they respond to the challenges following any catastrophic event.

When the tsunami waters finally receded after Japan’s ‘triple disaster’ of earthquake, tsunami, and power plant meltdown in the Tohoku region in 2011, most survivors were left homeless and disconnected from their families and friends. In a decimated landscape completely devoid of infrastructure, severed communities struggled to put their lives back together. 

The Japanese government’s relatively slow and opaque response to the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant has resulted in a growing mistrust of the government in Japanese society. 

The Tokyo-based art collective, Chim↑Pom, was one of the first groups to initiate art projects to raise awareness about the realities of nuclear power and radiation in Japan through their performances and installations. Utilizing one of Tokyo’s busiest neighborhoods, Shibuya, as the staging ground for many of their interventions, Chim↑Pom targets candid public audiences with sometimes outlandish and humorous projects. According to Emily Taguchi, producer of the PBS Frontline program, The Atomic Artists, “Japanese youth had generally been very apolitical and apathetic” before the disaster. 

Chim↑Pom’s actions are at the forefront of this paradigm shift in Japanese society.

If anyone would like to comment on the above, I would be especially interested in the discourse about how art projects that are interventionist and subversive in nature, are sometimes associated with illegal activities. The work of Chim↑Pom and many others ride a fine line between our notions of legal and illegal, but when are these actions considered OK in society? Must they be educative? 
Tags: Japan, intervention, art, performance, 3/11, Chim Pom, conflict, disaster, social movement

huddlestona Artwork that infringes upon or changes someone else's art is a crime. In the video, the artists from Chim Pom make their artwork an addendum to someone else's artwork already displayed in the metro. Regardless of their feelings about the meanings of the original artwork and how they would like to improve or add on to it, or to use it to compliment their own artwork, doing so is vandalism and indeed theft of the original artist's oeuvre. Unless the original artist was consulted or a collaborator, the new artwork is a criminal assault on the original artwork.
4 years, 2 months ago
pkaplan To huddlestona: but see the post on 'Mendalism' on this web page. That artist makes a different case.
4 years, 2 months ago
nat.andreini To huddlestona & pkaplan: Thank you for adding comments. Chim Pom's addition to the original "Myth of Tomorrow" could also be regarded as a 'silent collaboration', where sticking to the main theme of the original merely updates the work to contemporary standards. The fact that it was created in actual physical space, versus the Internet or some other virtual environment, challenges us to consider notions of authorship and privacy. I think your comment is very astute, but would also ask you to consider less conventional reasoning. This kind of thing happens on the Internet and in advertising all of the time. Why is Chim Pom's version not OK?
4 years, 2 months ago
artasauthority I think "Mendalism" is clever at best. If it weren't for the Papal blessing of MCASD (and the exhibit that spawned these murals) along with those building owners who allowed their walls to be "tagged," these works would have likely suffered a fate much worse. "Mending" them so to speak neither improves, recovers, restores or even enhances the original I believe. In the spirit of most graffiti, it was a one shot deal not meant to be cherished or even safeguarded. This is why Chim Pom's interventions seem different to me. If we accept for a moment that all artwork is not static or "finished" as it appears to our senses, and that it is only a reflection of a particular moment in time or the artist's psyche, emotions or what have you, then you could possibly accept that perhaps the artwork hasn't attained the goal(s) the artist intended it to achieve. In other words, the artwork is not Gospel and is open to many interpretations and interventions by others. Not because the artist is incapable but because maybe the artist couldn't see the finished product. If you allow for this "flux" or "silent collaboration" perhaps then you end up with an artwork that is truly unique.
4 years, 2 months ago
pkaplan The appeal of Mendalism for me is linguistic and substantive. I like the sound of the word and I like what it does semiotically to invert 'vandalism.' I also like the idea of altering public artworks for precisely the reasons artsauthority lists. The particular instance of adding tears to the mural in San Diego may be have been merely clever, but the idea is something more than that.
4 years, 2 months ago
brian Some of the above commentary intersects with notions of public art - where it begins and ends, and most importantly, its relation to issues of permanence. One might ask: What's the shelf-life of an artwork? Within the conventions of so-called 'studio arts' if an artwork has outlived its public it can go into the archives of a museum of collector (and reappear, possibly, when a new use-value is determined). But in the public domain, the art work persists, often embarrassingly so, long after the public for which it was made morphs in the that inevitable 'something else'. Given the ever changing identity of the public, this OUGHT to be a real conundrum for public artists and community advocates alike; what does one do with a public artwork that has outlived it public? Is it really an affront to a public artist to concede that his work is no longer relevant and needs to be replaced? And if not, what does one do with the outdated public artwork? In an age of neoliberal environmentalism this would certainly be a pressing question. Until such a time comes that the field of public art can address those issues at a policy level we should anticipate - and somewhat optimistically, I might add - artists taking matters into their own hands.
4 years, 2 months ago
artasauthority I don't want to beat a dead horse here Paul, obviously we have different takes on Mendalism but it did get me thinking about another act of Mendalism that went awry - It would also be helpful if Nicholas jumped into this discussion to round it out a bit I think. That aside, I understand more clearly what Huddlestona's was trying to say. He's right. I'm assuming Nicholas would argue that what this woman did to that fresco was not Mendalism. And I believe this is why I called his practice clever because I believe he is couching his version of it within a very ordained and sanctioned art school/art world approach to contextualizing and making artwork. It's pseudo-authoritarian stance is very different from a "unskilled" and unqualified" non-art DIY person. The differences albeit seemingly important really aren't as it doesn't make him anymore qualified to intervene than the old woman. That is, without the goal and intent to conserve and preserve for future generations which makes it a "crime" as Huddlestona points out, not the go-to-jail kind but nonetheless, one that is counter to the ethics of safeguarding patrimony, etc. etc. Hell, at this point you could even call the blowing up of the Bamiyan buddhas in Afghanistan yet another form of Mendalism. A bit extreme I know but you see my point...
4 years, 2 months ago
pkaplan Why isn't Nicholas or Chim-Pom more qualified to intervene than the old woman? Also, what is the major difference between the San Diego mural alteration and the Chim-Pom alteration?
4 years, 2 months ago
artasauthority Specifically Nicholas and not Chim Pom for the reasons I mentioned in my first post. The major difference: Chim Pom visually alters (from what I gather i.e. not "defacing" the original) whereas (without consulting the museum or artist), Nicholas "physically defaces the original in guise of "restoring" it. Chim Pom practices a sort of addendum art or "Addendumism" - I'm coining this by the way...
4 years, 2 months ago
pkaplan Kevin, so I can't quite the difference between mendalism and addendumism. Am I wrong in recalling that Chim Pom also did NOT get permission from the artist to alter the mural? My sense is that your take on this is that Nicholas was operating out of a kind of precious art school pretension (?) but that Chim Pom is not. For some reason, I just don't see a great difference between these two examples of artists altering some public art. But this could be because of my relative ignorance about art. I think more interesting is the more general question of whether it is preferable for certain persons to be authorized to alter public art (or any art) over other persons. I would prefer that Nicholas or Chim Pom alter murals than the little old lady in Spain. This attitude might counter that of artists deeply committed to relational (or social) art, but isn't there something to be said for talent/training/etc.? I would love to hear from Nicholas or Chim Pom on this.
4 years, 2 months ago
artasauthority You're right Paul, we're (I'm) speculating on two artists production based on a couple of videos. But my gut tells me I'm not too far off from the assessment I gave Nicholas. I keep asking myself who cares? Who cares that he runs around and mends what is for the most part ephemeral and in this case - graffiti - which was never intended to last in the first place. The notion that someone should be trained or qualified is an interesting one even more so, asking what oeuvre(s) merits an intervention. In the most strict sense this is what conservators do and safeguarding patrimony dictates. I would argue the old lady's intervention (intent) was merited (loosely used) as a form of preserving an icon, relic, painting whatever deemed worthy (historically etc.) and of value to society and simply, for others to witness (experience, see etc.). Chim Pom didn't physically alter the mural, didn't touch, paint over, remove or otherwise harm the original mural, They simply "added" to the mural in a space that wasn't designated - an unused one at that. They simply put their canvas next to another in homage. It wasn't as much interpretive as it was complimentary I believe. Yes they didn't ask but their intent and goal(s) we're different. As for Nicholas, whose to say he got the color of the fabric right (for the tears), it's installation method and or placement correct? Again in the most strictest terms, a restorer would have taken great pains to "restore" the original back to its "original state." The arbitrary and lackadaisical approach taken by Nicholas just seems unnecessary and unclear. At least to me.
4 years, 1 month ago
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