Contemporary Reactions: INTERNMENT 抑留, Scott Tsuchitani 槌谷スコット, and “Executive Order 9066”
UMOCA’s Development Intern, Joe Taylor, recaps Scott Tsuchitani’s exhibition, INTERNMENT 抑留, as well as his artist talk on June 26, “Execrative Order: 906-6-6,” in order to reflect upon and unpack the topics that Tsuchitani confronts us with in his work.
Tsuchitani’s exhibition in the Codec Gallery brings to light the forced relocation of Japanese Americans during WWII. To illuminate this tumultuous aspect of American history, Tsuchitani reimagines the photos and reinterprets the weighted images through collage techniques. In conjunction with his show, UMOCA was pleased to welcome Tsuchitani for an artist talk to discuss his powerful work. The additional context from his discussion helps to unpack the meaning from the powerful images, and also complements Panopticon in highlighting the very real potential for misuse—and outright abuse—of power.
Using playful imagery, Tsuchitani comments on the pervasive institutionalized racism that he lives with on a daily basis as a Japanese American. Some of Tsuchitani’s artwork, such as “….” (2012), relies upon the reclamation (and alteration) of images from Executive Order 9066, a controversial and well-loved book by Maisie and Richard Conrat . The book comprises an edited group of just 63 photos from a collection of over 25,000 images compiled from photographers as well known as Dorthea Lange, Ansel Adams and Toyo Miyatake.
During his talk, Tsuchitani dove into the book’s history, speaking to the emotionally weighted images, which were heavily editorialized for publication. Tsuchitani argues that through both cropping and selecting images of the most vulnerable people at the internment camps, a particular stereotype is exposed. Essentially, the image is incomplete—the book doesn’t depict an accurate reality. For example, Tsuchitani detailed that, of the 63 images in the book, 46 depict only the elderly and children, and the men are more or less cropped out. The slant toward showing the most defenseless in the book potentially leads to the misperception that men weren’t housed at the concentration camps. Tsuchitani argues that this only further illustrates and reinforces the collective sense of emasculation and lack of privilege experienced by the Japanese American prisoners who were forced to give up everything when they were relocated by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066.
Exposing the contradictions contained within the images allows for Tsuchitani to reclaim the dialogue and express his concern for overt and structural racism. He does this in part by using art as a form of activism and subversion, as well as a form of inspiration for people to take action and discuss these issues. Generating this dialogue is a critical component of understanding racism and the movement to enter an age of cultural openness—where differences are celebrated and embraced, rather than feared and exiled. Hopefully, by talking about the mistakes of our ancestors, we will learn to treat each other first and foremost as human beings.
Written by Joe Taylor
As part of UMOCA’s mission to encourage people to explore what it means to exist in today’s world, the museum is committed to bringing topics, exhibitions, and artists that challenge and embolden Utah’s cultural landscape.