June 7, 2023
Free To The Public
In October 1945, a team of U.S. Air Force photographers arrived in Occupied Japan to document the efficacy of Allied bombing on Japanese soil, including the nature and magnitude of structural damage sustained by atomic-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For several months, the servicemen captured over 8,000 photographs and hours of film of the wrecked Japanese war economy and masses of civilians left dead, disfigured, or disappeared. The survey, titled the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), was critical to the United States’ postwar intelligence gathering and remains among the most extensive visual records of the destruction caused by nuclear war.
In her exhibition Dead Letter Room, visual artist Allie Tsubota uses material from the USSBS, along with contemporary photographs of Japan and a series of fabulative letters with the late Japanese poet Hara Tamiki (原民喜, 1905–1951), to question the histories that remain submerged within institutional archives. Historical repositories, like the USSBS, are reminders of the past’s enduring hold on the present, and their materials and management continue to invite attention. Tsubota will expand upon these concepts with Leah Ra’chel Gipson and Samantha HIll, who served as jurors for this year’s Contemporary X exhibition.
Register HERE to join the discussion.
Allie Tsubota is a photographer exploring intersections of race, visuality, and the formation of historical memory. Through contemporary and archival practice, she pursues questions of history, subjectivity, spectatorship and language, and their discontinuities across transnational space and time. As a fourth-generation Japanese/American, she has been most focused on episodes of empire and assimilation within the Asian/Pacific diaspora, and is notably indebted to the work of Black feminist scholars attending to the afterlives of transatlantic racial slavery.
Leah Ra’chel Gipson
Leah Ra’chel Gipson is an interdisciplinary artist and scholar. Her work facilitates hyperlocal, community projects that engage Black culture and imagines critical “call and response” environments. Leah’s work explores race and gender through family history, popular media, and archives using image, sound, textile, and installation, rooted in mixed traditions of Black feminism and the Black church. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Art Therapy Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Samantha Hill is a transdisciplinary artist whose work bridges the space between the past and present through archive-based photography installations. Her work centers on family, collective memory and the artifacts that connect them framed within immersive environments. Samantha is the Curator of Civic Engagement at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania and creator of the Kinship Project, a community archive of Black family photography and ephemera from 1839 to 2010.