Afterimage Requiem is a large-scale visual and sound installation by Kei Ito and Andrew Paul Keiper that probes the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and their intertwined family histories. It was exhibited at the Baltimore War Memorial in January, 2018.
The installation includes 108 human-scale photograms made using sunlight, light sensitive paper and Ito’s body, evoking those lost in the bombing, and a 4-channel sound work that portrays the places and processes of the bomb’s production, and includes field recordings made at atomic heritage sites in New Mexico and Chicago.
Ito’s grandfather witnessed the explosion of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that killed his family, while Keiper’s grandfather was an engineer who contributed to the effort to develop the bomb. Their collaboration grapples with this history while asserting its pertinence to a contemporary audience living in an increasingly unstable political landscape. Ito and Keiper seek mutual understanding while contemplating the roots, sorrow and scope of the bombing. In an era of overt nuclear crisis unlike any seen in decades, Afterimage Requiem asks the audience to reflect on the ramifications of our current course, and to learn from the past.
The 108 photograms are direct negative exposures of Ito’s body, laid upon the ground. Ito’s grandfather told him “that day in Hiroshima was like hundreds of suns lighting up the sky,” a description that has haunted his artistic practice. The radiation to which Ito’s grandfather was exposed inscribed itself onto his genes, becoming Ito’s inheritance.108 is a number that holds significance in Japanese Buddhism, a number that embodies redemption from the evil passions we possess. Each print is a prayer for the future.
Keiper’s sound draws upon his research into the production of the bomb, conjuring the facilities and methods through which the bomb was created, alongside the sounds of the remote natural settings in which the facilities were hidden. The sound prompts us to imagine secret settings lost to time, to problematize the idea of the natural, and to ask ourselves difficult questions about things done in our name and for our defense.
In 2016, Ito and Keiper received the Rubys Artist Project Grant through the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance to create Afterimage Requiem. They have exhibited their collaborative works widely, and in March 2019 will present Afterimage Requiem and related projects at an exhibition of their works at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina called Archives Aflame.