GOD Loves Japan raises awareness about Japan’s recovery efforts

By J.C. Wén ~ March, 2012 ~ Review section, Nikkei Voice


“I feel sorry to ask you, but can you kneel down?”

Daisuke Takeya pointed toward a spot on the floor. Inside his closet-sized wooden shack, the floorboards are strewn with a carpet of old toys, wrinkled books and magazines. The narrow space, with the roof hanging a little over six-feet tall, are scattered with everyday household items: an alarm clock, a dial-up phone, a television set with the words ‘all you need is love, maybe’ across the black screen. There’s even a plastic goggle.

“Can you look in it?” he asked. You can only do that on all fours.

Through the lens, a spot of bright light shines through a dark hole. Somewhere in the pile of sand and trash beneath the floor is a white neon sign that reads: “Yes”.

“When you are looking at it, you look like one of the rescuers,” Takeya says.

It’s a welcoming sign –- not all hope is lost.

When Toronto-based JC artist, Daisuke Takeya, traveled through the earthquake and tsunami-devastated regions of Tohoku, Japan, late last year, hope was sparse among a population deprived of their homes, livelihoods, and the prospect of life ever returning to “normal”. For three weeks, Takeya slept in his car and conducted arts workshops for children in temporary housings and orphanages. He realized then what it means to ‘never lose hope’: “the kids are so happy,” he says. “I know they have some trauma deep inside, but they are happy and still want to have fun.”

Perhaps the silver lining here and hidden within Takeya’s latest installation, God Loves Japan, is that our situation is what we make of it. Which might also explain the many subliminal signs and messages the artist planted throughout the 14-feet tall wreckage he constructed to symbolize a typical Japanese house in the aftermath of the tsunami.

The entire work is divided into three levels. Up top, the walls of the wooden shack are plastered with photographs of volunteers in the disaster relief efforts. Below, is a playground surrounded disorienting arrays of random scraps, clothing, luggage and shoes. On the ground floor is a broken heart sculpture lying on its side –- recycled from Takeya’s 2007 Nuit Blanche booth “Everybody Loves You 2” –- playing previous video recordings of people saying ‘I love you’ from the nook of its woofer.

Nearby, the adjacent white wall has been partially painted black to the height of the tsunami wave that struck Tohoku’s coast –- 10 feet, exactly. It would’ve submerged two-thirds of the display underwater. “I want to recreate height of the house where the audience can actually come up and experience it,” Takeya says. “It’s different from [what you see on] YouTube. By actually come upstairs and be in a Japanese house, the Canadian audience can feel ‘wow, the water came up this high?’”

With the approaching anniversary of the March 11 earthquake, Takeya hopes his title –- a reference to Douglas Coupland’s 2001 book God Hates Japan –- can raise the much-needed support and awareness from among the Canadian public. The author threw in his personal recommendation for the use of the title as well.

“He (Coupland) said that it’s a great idea to use this title ‘God Loves Japan’ versus God Hates Japan and what if god loves Japan? This wouldn’t have happened right?” Takeya says. Ultimately, he leaves it to the audience to decide if the same love survived the destruction.

But can a country now in a state reminiscent of “lost decade” Coupland fictionalized in his book find reasons to hope in the long, drawn-out recovery? As Takeya sees it, the future’s prime with possibilities: “To be honest … there’s not so much Japan can feel optimistic about. Everything is in decline. But we artists are really trying to understand and contextualize the reality and imagine and make it into different forms to encourage people. So I think now’s the greatest time for artists to lead a nation in need.”