Wednesday, March 16, 2011

With Japan

Please support With Japan on tumblr by submitting uplifting photos, videos, illustrations, posters, etc.

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Here is a long-winded account documenting the foundation for www.withjapan.tumblr.com, because I think there's value in keeping record of where our ideas and inspiration come from.

My younger years are marked with a definitive optimism, naive world views, and an idealistic passion to see justice for the defenseless. You can source it from the superhero comic books I snuck in class, blame it on the over-simplified Sunday school lessons about good and evil, or maybe it was my unhealthy absorption in Lord of the Rings at far too young an age. Regardless, I saw the world as a novel unfolding; there were good guys and bad guys, and the good guys were nigh incorruptible. The crises in the world could only be temporary and existed as a build up to the climax in our global narrative -- after which we could expect a miraculous resolve involving newfound harmony washing over all our wars and disputes. I've since learned that it's true what the say about life being unfair sometimes, that justice more often presents itself as an unattainable privilege, and even though you pour your heart and soul into something doesn't mean the results will match what you'd envisioned for yourself. In college, I learned to adapt my song to the cynical anthem of disillusioned students groaning and griping at the tremendous injustices they fell victim to in life. I very quickly became discouraged and apathetic, losing sight of why I wanted to create and draw and paint in the first place. What was the point if it didn't change anything, didn't affect anyone?

Last Friday, the world stood still in shock as a tsunami-laden earthquake devastated Japan. It's Wednesday, almost 6 days after the initial blow, and it seems one problem keeps igniting after another in a nightmare that news anchors report to be as catastrophic as WWII. The grief of Japan reached across the internet, through the news reports, and invaded me through and through. But the grief left me feeling thoroughly useless, sitting safe at my desk making dinner plans and rushing for deadlines and worrying about taxes. There was nothing I could do to help. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a rescue worker, I have no practical skills to lend without getting in the way... besides which I'd read this article on why it might be a good idea to wait before giving to Japan. So then what was I supposed to do?

The day after, I was watching a Ted Talk given by JR, a semi-anonomous French street artist who pastes large-scale photos in public places in countries all over the world. He talked about taking art from the dictatorial, bureaucratic galleries and giving it back to the people and the effects it had on their community. He also talked about how it's impossible to save the world... but that it is possible to change it. 14:00 into the video JR says about his experience in an African village,
"Some who understood the project would explain it to others, and to a man who didn't understand I heard someone say, 'you know you've been here for a few hours trying to understand... during that time you haven't thought about what you're going to eat tomorrow. This is art.'" It got me thinking.

By Sunday, my eyes were glued to every news update and photo feed involving the northern areas of Japan. In one video I stumbled upon, a reporter interviewed a young Japanese woman living north of Tokyo, but far enough south of the disaster site to be safe. She, like many of the other locals who were interviewed, was shaken and afraid... despite this, she mentioned how seeing all the tweets and posts online from all over the world showing concern and support were helping her "keep it together". The thought grew.

Shortly after, another photo cropped up in my incessant perusing:



This photo was taken by Amit Dave and posted on boston.com's The Big Picture, and provided that final push I needed.

This is our role as artists in a hurting world: to change attitudes, to inspire new ideas, and to encourage humanity to hope.

I don't have any resources that can be of practical use to the earthquake victims, and I'm not sure what to expect out of this project or if it'll even catch on.. It's not a particularly brilliant idea, but if it encourages even one person, then it'll have been worthwhile a thousand times over.

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submit to withjapan.tumblr.com here

see JR's Ted talk here

see Amit Dave's photo here

see other ways to help here


Thanks for reading!


and special thanks to Jeff for coding everything on such short notice :)

1 comment:

Luce said...

Like you said, every single thing some sent out there is one more little push to the right direction.

totally in support of this.