Despite the fact that online forums are mostly realms of homogenizing interplay through positive re-inforcements and atomic pursuits of self promotion every once in a while genuinely wonderful ( literally ) discussions and dialogues emerge. One forum that offers more exceptions to the rule than most is the sleepy cyber corner of dissensus. Mr Teas Top 10 Badass Phenomena veered slightly off tangent and the topic of the Tsar Bomba was introduced to the discussion, a separate thread about nuclear testing was born and this is where I stumbled across Isao Hashimoto's poignant, beautiful and sobering video '1945-1998'. The video shows a map of the world displaying in a second/month time-lapse format the nuclear detonations ( every single one of the 2053 nucleat tests and attacks that occurred in this period of history ) and their geographical positions between 1945 and 1998. A metronomic bleep signifies the explosions and a key for the bombs country of origin is also shown, each countries explosion has a different tone and the passing of each month is also signified by a bleep. Unsurprisingly a call and response symphony is created by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. detonations throughout the cold war period of the 1970's.
1945-1998 by Isao Hashimoto ( 2003 )
Hashimoto's video reminded me of the ancient folk myth of Hitodama. Hitodama ( meaning human ( hito ) souls ( dama ) ) can, according to Japanese Folklore, often appear to be green or blue with long tails and appear next to the dying before floating off to the next life. When you consider the amount of lives that the bombs depicted in Hashimoto's piece are capable of taking, the number of souls the detonations could/have claim(ed), Hashimoto's subtle work acquires a gravity that emphasizes the sorry morbidity of so many nations pouring so much time, effort and resources into tools and technologies that's main purpose ( despite being politicized, and capitalized ) is essentially to take the lives and souls of other human beings. According to this he began the piece in 2003, with the aim of showing, in his own words, "the fear and folly of nuclear weapons". Hashimoto says: " I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world."
Hashimoto has produced an incredible example of how powerful and politically astute a work of contemporary art can be. Other Artist's like Santiago Sierra and Francis Alys ( who has has a vaguely disappointing exhibition showing at The Tate Modern ) create politically engaged works, both on conceptual levels and through more literal confrontations of social and economical issues, however I cannot remember the last time I experienced such a succinctly powerful and conceptually transparent piece as Hashimoto's '1945-1998', the piece is concise and unassuming, rather than forcing an analogy or metaphor for contemplation he literally re-represents a very sad history and a series of facts so uncomfortable they need nothing more than acknowledgement.
Here are two other works by Isao Hashimoto: