Wednesday, September 28, 2016

We Interrupt This Program...

The knitting continues, and eventually I will get around to telling the last of my tales from Cordova. I've been away from home a lot this summer and fall--not just Cordova--and I have a thing to show you from my travels. It's not knitting, but it's a bit fibery and important, and I think you'll find it moving, as I did.

I'm just back from a cruise in the Columbia River gorge, in the course of which we visited the Hanford Reach National Monument near Richland, Washington. There's a small visitor center there with museum exhibits about the local nature, the original people, and the place's history as a center for nuclear research, fuel production, and waste disposal.  It is the lesser known partner in the WWII Manhattan project with Los Alamos in New Mexico. The plutonium for the Hiroshima bomb was produced there.

A small round room in the visitor center is an exhibition of art works that relate to Hanford's nuclear past and present, and in the middle of the room was this:

At first glimpse, I thought it was a visual pun on a mushroom cloud. You can see, I'm sure, how that could have been my first thought. It's vaguely mushroom-shaped and definitely mushroom-colored. The square top is a little bit odd, but it's art, right?

It dominated the room from floor to ceiling, but information about it was hard to find. Close inspection showed that in addition to the Japanese writing, there was hair. Black hair that had to be there on purpose, and in fact was maybe the thread that sewed it together.

If you look carefully at the closeup, you can see the fine black stitches and odd bits of the hair.

Eventually I found the information plaque on the wall and discovered that it is a life-sized cloth sculpture of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, made by a descendant of a Hiroshima survivor using 1940s kimonos, her own hair, and the poetry of Matsuo Basho. Here's her full statement:

I was stunned. Here are a couple more pictures of the work:

And this one is a view of the inside taken through a hole:

I find the haphazard patchwork and worn holes in the cloth especially affecting. Ghosts of the real people who once inhabited the garments. Ghosts of the real people who once inhabited a city.