Tohoku 2011

Today was almost entirely filled with meetings. One was a very interesting meeting though – we were visited by a researcher from Tokyo, who is studying the experiences of disabled people in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, so has come to Christchurch to compare our situation with Tohoku’s.
The Tohoku earthquake was only a couple of weeks after our big one, and many of the search and rescue teams who worked in Christchurch went straight to Tohoku from here.  So many of us feel an affinity with Tohoku that no amount of official “sister city” agreements could ever reproduce.  And certainly in our team we’ve watched with interest Japan’s development of a similar archive to CEISMIC in response to the disaster.  So it was really interesting to meet someone so deeply involved with the area, and to discuss similarities and differences between Christchurch and Tohoku.
One thing I found really fascinating was that she said that attempts at Gapfiller-style art projects have failed over there – the locals felt like their loss was being exploited by the artists, rather than the art helping them.  The researcher thought this difference between the Christchurch and Tohoku experiences was maybe something to do with the cultural differences – not just between New Zealand and Japan (which are of course huge), but also between a city and a relatively rural region: there wasn’t as much of a local art scene already present in Tokohu for that sort of movement to develop out of, so most of the artists were outsiders coming in (and moreover, were outsiders who’d never shown any interest in the region before) – no wonder the locals were suspicious of their motives.

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