Critics’ Picks

View of “Chim↑Pom: Threat of Peace (Hiroshima!!!!!!),” 2019.

New York

Chim↑Pom

Art in General
145 Plymouth Street
April 19–July 13, 2019

Japanese art collective Chim↑Pom’s show, “Threat of Peace (Hiroshima!!!!!!),” and the coinciding exhibition at this space, “Non-Visitor Center”—presented by the curatorial group Don’t Follow the Wind—bring the lasting environmental and psychological impact of two unsettled nuclear histories into conversation: the US bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 and the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.

Legend has it that if you fold one thousand origami cranes, your dream will come true. The city of Hiroshima receives millions of paper cranes, many of which are inscribed with messages, from across the world every year in commemoration of the bombings. Hiroshima is consequently faced with a quandary: Because these cranes have a ritual meaning, they cannot be thrown out like regular waste. Instead, a large municipal building in the city stockpiles tons of them. Chim↑Pom gained entry to this storage facility in order to read the messages embedded within these orizuru and documented the process in the two-channel video Non-Burnable (all works cited, 2019). Sitting among a large heap of them, a Chim↑Pom member unfolds them one by one, reading their contents aloud. It is obvious that these well-wishes for peace, commingled with regrets over such a horrific event, were written by children. For another work titled Pavilion, Chim↑Pom shipped hundreds of thousands of these cranes from Hiroshima to Art in General, which were then made into a monolithic, cave-like structure that could be entered. Their symbolic value is overwhelming en masse: intergenerational trauma is met with international care.

These pieces, alongside the site-specific exhibition in the Fukushima exclusion zone organized by Don’t Follow the Wind (both were curated by Jason Waite), speak to the benefits of working communally. It helps to generate ideas and, as Ellie of Chim↑Pom says, “we can get to places where it might not be possible to reach alone.”