Posts Tagged ‘sendai museum’

I like to consider myself a media-literate person, someone who can take a step back and understand how discourse affects us, and for what purposes it is created and shaped, so as to not be fully taken in by it. In this disaster, as in so many, a great many people are rightly accusing the media, especially the US media, of being sensationalist. And watching segments like emotional reunions, one certainly must recognize and acknowledge a drive for “good television” – a drive for finding, or creating, the most dramatic and emotional images and situations, to tear at the heartstrings of the viewer and make for more compelling programming.


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But not all of the programming is like that, and even when it is, I do not want to leap so quickly to such a cynical conclusion.

In any case, whatever the reasons behind such programming, be they financial, ratings, or whathaveyou, I am increasingly realizing that such programming really does serve a purpose for me.

The photos and videos are stunning, amazing, unbelievable. To see wide birds-eye views of the devastation, or giant boats in the middle of the street, or videos of the rushing water, certainly has impact and meaning. And to those for whom these are the most powerful images, more power to you. But to me, the more I look at them, the more I cannot help but think of it as mere spectacle. Omitting the human element and just admiring the awesome power of nature, and more to the point, just seeking an impressive composition or a rare shot that no one else has taken. The kind of image that makes people say “wow, what an incredible shot!” and not “Wow, what a terrible, sad, situation. I should donate some money.”

For me, and this is just me, I have always been more moved, more upset, by seeing other people upset, than perhaps anything else. A picture of a mother sobbing, with a caption about how she can’t find her husband or her son, even with little else to be seen in the picture, makes me tear up and my heart ache for her in a way that images of waves, or of piles of debris, or huge swaths of land – former towns – scoured clean do not.

And as I said in my previous post, it is difficult to feel that one is being upset enough, that one cares enough, that one feels connected enough to such a disaster. What does my being upset by myself in my room accomplish? Nothing, admittedly, except to make me feel better about myself that I might consider myself a less insensitive person; but it also means I’m more in the right mood or the right frame of mind to interact with my Japanese friends in a way that might be more appropriate and more supportive. And, sensationalist as these Ann Curry emotional reunion sort of segments may be, if they can get people here in the US to donate money – people who might not feel any particular connection or obligation to Japan, might not really feel the human side of it, much as I must admit I never really felt too much connection when events happened in Haiti – then it’s worth it, is it not?

They are now saying that there may have been as many as 10,000 deaths in the (former) town of Minami-sanriku alone. I remember Thursday night and Friday morning (Hawaii time) when they were giving numbers in the tens, and then the hundreds, and somehow I thought that was going to be more or less it.

I should hate to seem like I am simply brushing aside the human loss here, the very practical day-to-day losses of homes and infrastructure, of cars and possessions, and of loved ones and friends. These things are of course paramount, and terribly terribly upsetting.

But, this is an art and history and culture blog, and so I think it not inappropriate to touch upon news or announcements related to the art world. My thanks to the professional curators, art history professors, and other leading experts, members of the Japan Art History Forum for this information, which I hope it is no trouble or breach of trust to pass along here from the members-only mailing list.

As of right now, all the national museums are closed until Friday (March 18), and many private museums across the country are enacting similar closures. Staff are working to confirm the status of their museum buildings and collections, contacting lenders overseas to inform them of the status of their objects, etc. The key word that appears several times in the report of one JAHF member is “fluid” – I am sure that there are plenty of procedures in place, and that experts, i.e. museum staff, are following them, but the situation is also changing from minute to minute, and people are doing whatever needs doing, I would imagine with a fair degree of breakdown of normal hierarchies, jurisdictions, and standard roles, people just being people, and working together to do whatever needs doing, rather than being this dept and that dept, or superiors and staffers.

I am merely passing on information that I have heard; I apologize that in some cases I am not familiar with the sites referred to. I apologize also that the information is so scattered, mentioning some museums and not others, but, anyway, I just thought readers might be interested to know. Just as we may talk today about what was lost or destroyed in historical disasters in 1945, 1923, or the like, this sort of information, about the status of historical sites and of precious artworks at museums (not to mention the human lives of colleagues and friends – curators, museum staffers, etc.) is of importance and of interest.

*As of Saturday, curators at the Sendai Prefectural Museum reported in that they, and the collections, are safe.

*Koga is safe. [I’m assuming they’re referring to the town of Koga in Ibaraki prefecture, known for its historical and art museum?]

*A Rokkakudo, or six-sided pavilion, constructed by or associated with Okakura Tenshin [the one at Izura mentioned on this page?] has been washed away.

*A Rembrandt exhibit opened at the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo on the day of the quake. Curators and artworks are all reported to be safe.

*Additionally, the Miyagi Prefectural Museum is reported to have “not sustained tremendous damage, … the staff is all accounted for, and the collection is not damaged.”

*Not from JAHF, but I have also heard that a major historical site – residences of the Date samurai lords of Sendai – has been destroyed. I have heard nothing about the status of Sendai Castle, and am curious. I am also curious about the status of Matsushima, one of the “official” Three [most] Scenic Views in Japan, a series of small wooded islands which have been a famous sight for centuries, and which are immortalized in numerous paintings, stories, travel journals, prints, and the like. From what I understand, Matsushima was essentially right between the epicenter of the quake and the mainland of Honshu, so, as was mentioned on the Samurai Archives forums, it seems unlikely that this extremely famous, nationally well-known and treasured site of natural beauty has survived. Anyone heard any word on this?

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