The curatorial collective Don’t Follow the Wind−Chim↑Pom from Smappa!Group (initiator), Kenji Kubota, Jason Waite,Eva & Franco Mattes−together developed a long-term project inside the Fukushima Exclusion Zone and its ongoing off-site correspondences. On March 11, 2015, an inaccessible exhibition situated inside the evacuated zone titled Don’t Follow the Wind opened on the fourth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant owned by TEPCO. Hosted in homes and buildings lent by former residents the sites include – a home, a farm, and a recreation center. The curators collaborated with twelve participating artists and artist groups including Ai Weiwei, Chim↑Pom from Smappa!Group, Grand Guignol Mirai, Nikolaus Hirsch and Jorge Otero-Pailos, Meiro Koizumi, Eva & Franco Mattes, Aiko Miyanaga, Ahmet Öğüt, Trevor Paglen, Taryn Simon, Nobuaki Takekawa and Kota Takeuchi. The exhibition is open and yet remains unseen in the inaccessible zone, continuing to be invisible for years or even decades, until the former residents can return. 


In August 2022, for the first time in the ten years after the disaster a small part of the zone (around 4%) opened for resid -ents to return to live in. Inside this area was a site of Don’t Follow the Wind with a site-specific work by artist Meiro Koizumi, but the home that contained the work was demolished in 2019. With the restrictions to the area lifted, the work was re-created by the artist to be shown for a limited period along with a new three channel video by the collective that focuses on the environmental changes and more-than-human residents still inside the zone. This has been the first of twelve artist projects in Don’t Follow the Wind to be open to the public. It is not known when other areas of the zone might open to residents and when the other eleven works still inside the zone will be accessible to the public. 


Don’t Follow the Wind was named after the actions of an evacuee as they fled south towards Tokyo to avoid exposure to the fallout borne on a northwesterly wind. As humans have no capacity to sense the presence of radiation, the project posits the critical imagination as a tool to overcome its invisibility and bridge the ongoing urgency of the crisis with its long-term duration. As daily information about the catastrophe and the residents’ separation from their homes becomes increasingly rare, what other points of contact can culture provide? If an artwork can’t be seen, what means do we have to imagine its existence and the forces acting on it inside the contaminated zone? The national and independent commissions concluded from their investigations that the cause of the catastrophe was not natural forces, but rather the human lack of contingency and an active denial of the potential future by the government, TEPCO, and the nuclear industry. If the future itself was abdicated, what collective response can emerge to fill this void? Can the critical imagination extend into forming new ways of living and working together in order to compose a radically different future?

Non-Visitor Center (2023)

The new three channel video comprises the Non-Visitor Center, by the curatorial collective, which weaves a tapestry of experiences and new knowledge formed by evacuees, more-than-human inhabitants, and scientists in this transformed landscape. Those interviewed in the video include a former resident of Okuma who has lived and worked in the forestry industry for generations. He was forced to relocate due to the nuclear power plant accident, but still lives in Fukushima Prefecture and works in forestry. Another interviewee is a scientist working on the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake on the wild boar population in Fukushima Prefecture, biological dosimetry, and biological effects of radiation. The words of interviews and new images of the more-than-human residents still living in the area, such as wild boar, marten, deer, and monkeys, attempt to show the new life that exists in this zone and the possibilities for a future.


Annotation to Non-Visitor Center

There is a part in the interview audio of this work that mentions decontamination of farmland and nutrients. Recovering the soil fertility of farmland after decontamination is one of the major issues for reconstruction. The Fukushima Prefecture Agricultural Research Center and the NARO (National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (Tohoku Agricultural Research Center, Fukushima Research Station) have been working on this issue. The Fukushima Prefectural Agricultural Research Center and the National Institute of Agro-Environmental Sciences (Fukushima Research Center, Tohoku Agricultural Research Center) are analyzing the fertilizer retention and fertility of farmland in the process of experimental cultivation and developing its regain methods.
In Ogawahara district of Okuma Town, where the return of frogs’ voices is mentioned in the interview, farming trials of rice began in 2014, and after a demonstrative cultivation from 2018 (after testing, products below standard values can be shipped, sold.), they are now moving toward full-scale resumption of farming operations.
In the areas of Futaba Town where the evacuation order was lifted this August (including the Don’t Follow the Wind venue), farming trial was started in 2021 with the aim of resuming full-scale farming in 2025. In the town, test cultivation began in 2019 for vegetables, and shipping restrictions were lifted in 2022 for several items, including spinach and cabbage.