Nakahashi Katsuhide: On the Day 2002
Over the years, Nakahashi Katsushige has done a number of works relating to his artistic exploration of the life and influences of Zero pilot, Hajimi Toyoshima who died during the time of the breakout from the Prisoner of War camp in Cowra, New South Wales, Australia. Katsushige' Artist Talk in Brisbane at the Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 1999 is an insight into the artist's installation On The Day at the Cowra Art Gallery.
I came to Brisbane with the Zero fighter, but I have no intention of committing suicide, nor revenge.
I made a plastic model plane of Zero fighter type-52, which was invented during WWII. Its size is 1/32 of the actual size. Then, I took photographs of the Zero every 2mm width using a camera with a micro-lens. About 13,000 photos are put together like a puzzle. This type-52 flew mainly for the purpose of 'Kamikaze' attack.
I am sure that some of the people present had gone through the Pacific War. I would like to say sorry to those who lost family members. I wish the people who fought in the Pacific War would talk about it to the next generation including me.
During the war, my father was based at Omura fleet air aim in Nagasaki Prefecture. He was the maintenance mechanic serving Zero fighters. He was reluctant to talk about the war. He never mentioned those days, he might have felt helpless, or full of anger about the war. He might have disliked remembering the war, that Japan was completely defeated. I can only presume all of these reasons would be close to the truth.
All could learn about the Pacific War were the historical facts from text books at school. It was not until I saw my mother's emotional reaction that I realized the cruelty of the war. My mother was usually very quiet, and I never before witnessed her burst into tears and cried out. It happened when YOKOl Syoichi, a former Sergeant, returned to Japan after twenty-eight years of hiding in the Guam Island jungle, disarmed in 1972. He arrived at Haneda international airport, and announced, with his hand saluted, 'I am ashamed to come back to Japan alive'. My mother was watching TV, sat straight and banged a tatami mat again and again and said, 'What is for the sake of the country? What is the country all about?' I understood her reaction as a response to the vague and transient concept of what one's country might be. Surprised at the sight, I faced her reality that the war was true in our lives.
In the same years, two former Japanese soldiers were found in the Rupang Wand of the Republic of Philippines. There was a gun fight with police and KOZUKA Kinshichi, a former officer soldier was shot and killed. The other one, ONODA Hiroo, was persuaded to come out disarmed by friends and relatives. He finally left the jungle after two years of persuasion. When I come to think about these two soldiers, hiding and wandering in the tropical jungle solely. While not letting their guns rust for thirty years, I couldn't help but sympathise with my mother's reaction.
My memory of war was making a plastic model of a Zero fighter, and playing with it. I had been absorbed in making plastic models since I was a third grader. I am now absorbed in sculpture, so you may find that there is not much mental growth. In those days, it was popular to make not only Japanese plastic model planes but also Grummans' and Messerschmits'. American arms as well as that of Germany were displayed in the window show case of the plastic model plane store. It may sound ridiculous to you but plastic was still rarely seen in 1965. My father used to look at me making model planes and giving directions to me. He said, 'That's not it!' or 'Put them together well'. He sometimes got frustrated just watching me making and took them away from my hands to finish them. By the time I was twenty years old, I somehow found out that my father was in Nagasaki at the time of the Pacific War.
One day of last year, to my surprise, my father came to visit the gallery to see the ZERO. How astonished I was! He started to talk about Zero fighter airplanes. He said, the color was such and such ....and the size of Zero fighter was a little bigger ....and there was no antenna...and so on. He was still a maintenance mechanic at heart.
Then he confessed about young 'Kamikaze' plots, and the atomic bomb which was dropped in Nagasaki.
There he actually saw the atomic mushroom shaped cloud from 20klms away. He went to get oil to the storage where the oil for the Zero fighters was kept. It was made from pine roots, in the cave dug halfway up a mountain and he noticed that the nearby telephone pole had short-circuited. He climbed up the pole, and saw the pink cloud. He was awed by beauty of the sight without knowing what it was.
In the gallery, the visitors of my father's generation were talking about something to one another. The visitors of my generation were speaking about the plastic models. The visitors of young generation were looking at the ZERO in term of OTAKU, a kind of nerd-tics point of view as if they were checking out the new SANRIO goods. I was amazed to hear these visitors from three different generations were expressing their impression in their own way.
Since the ZERO occupies a lot of space to exhibit, I came here to research at the end of April last year. It was April 25th last year that I visited Sydney on my way back to Japan. Senior citizens were walking shoulder to shoulder with a medal on their jackets. It was Anzac Day. I am not an Australian, but I almost bowed to honour them. As a man. I would like to pay respect to whoever fought at the risk of his/her life. There is no such day in Japan. On August 15th, this is the day when the Pacific War came to an end, nobody becomes eloquent in Japan. People may pray for the dead quietly. There is no occasion that we can honor the veterans.
I am not a historian, nor am I a politician. I have never experienced a war before. My opinion might sound superficial. It might seem natural for you that I just describe the motivation and procedures of creating the ZERO. If I could just tell about those, it would be a lot easier for me too.
Nevertheless, I prefer to make a comment about a war as a representative of my generation. This work represents my image of my father's generation, who blindly fought a war without questioning the meaning of it. It also brings the nostalgia of my childhood to light, and moreover, my anger toward the younger generation who even forgot the appreciation of peace with OTAKU culture.
l am against a war under any circumstance as well as I am not a stereotype pacifist. l don't think that it should be a problem to see someone honouring both the teenage pilots of Zero fighters who were killed for the sake of their country and the veterans whom I met on Anzac Day.
I am frequently asked to clarify my status, whether I belong to the right or left. Whether emperor HIROHITO should be treated as a war criminal or not. The fact is that answering these questions is not what I am asked to do as an artist. Judging rights from wrongs doesn't make any sense to me either. On the contrary, questioning people from a lot of different dimensions through my work, bringing those questions to light is what I am aiming at.
Lastly, as people from three generations express different impressions in Japan, people from the Pacific Rim can express your own ideas from your point of views. Through the process of doing so, I sincerely believe that by looking back at the past, a spirit of forgiveness, intelligence and respect for a better future will emerge.