Clings and Burns Erasing Nagoya
Erasing Nagoya is a project I have been pursuing since 2014. I discovered a very small photograph in a shoebox in which my father had saved his World War II pictures, documents and medals. It was the image of a radar bomb site situated directly over the city of Nagoya, Japan, with the date of the attack imprinted right in the photo. While I had as a kid seen the numerous photos he had taken during the war and heard very general statements to the effect that he had "bombed Tokyo during the war," I had never discussed his WWII experiences in any meaningful way. Nor did I know the significance of the March 12 1945 date in the photo shown above. This led to a review of his full military personnel file (which he had saved), to historical research into the atrocious U.S. firebombing campaign against Japanese cities in 1945 - before the atomic bombings - including archival films at the National Archives in Maryland, and to an examination of the role that, as a B-29 flight engineer, my father played in those raids.
How to respond to this examination has been difficult. As an attorney for part of my professional life, I wondered about the legality of the U.S. firebombing campaign and how uncomfortable facts continue to get set aside (“erased”) to create a society’s myths, in this case in service of reinforcing the idea of the good war - how things that are clearly immoral and atrocious if one loses become ok if you win the war or contest. More importantly, from a deeply personal perspective, I hoped to understand how a good person comes to participate in atrocious actions. In attempts to resolve my thoughts into a form of art, I explored using drawing, monotypes and some photo-based prints. I found this approach unsatisfactory, although it has not been entirely abandoned.
Frustration lead me to film Clings and Burns. I settled upon assuming a fiction that, using new technology, I was still able to communicate with my deceased father (like Lincoln talking to his deceased son in George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo). I decided to stage and film a deposition (an interrogation perhaps) of my father about his role in the 1945 firebombings, in particular on the March 12 1945 raid on Nagoya, with myself acting as lead attorney for a fictitious future government commission.
The film is 2 channels. It had its premier at Torn Space Theater, Buffalo New York in February 2023. It was screened again at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo New York in April 2023. Discussions are being had about showing the film in Japan. More information will be forthcoming as events unfold.