Dead Letter Room (2021–2022)

Dead Letter Room is a transhistorical correspondence with the late Japanese poet Hara Tamiki (原民喜, 1905–1951), known for his slender output of poetry and prose during the prewar and immediate postwar periods. An extraordinarily sensitive and elusive writer, Hara is most popularly admired for authoring Summer Flowers, a narrative first-person account of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Dead Letter Room is comprised of three interdependent parts: 1) a reproduction of a post-atomic archive–the United States Strategic Bombing Survey–created by the U.S. military in Occupied Japan; 2) a fictive, transhistorical correspondence with the late Japanese poet and hibakusha, Hara Tamiki; and 3) a photographic search for (or "survey" of) the material, literary and spectral traces of Hara's life, conducted by the artist in 2022.

Together, the elements of Dead Letter Room engage in a politics of mediation and exchange, flowing across disciplines, languages, nations and temporalities. The project is preoccupied with recovering life disappeared by the state and its archives, and to do so, it looks to the pregnant breaks between language, light and atomic time.

Related Works: Letters to/from H

01. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Pacific Theater, 1945

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 magnitude of damage sustained by atomic-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over several months, the team of photographers captured over 8,000 photographs, recording what was visible of the wrecked Japanese war economy and the 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 it remains one the most extensive visual records of the ruins of nuclear war. 

Photographs reproduced courtesy of U.S. National Archives.


02. Hara Tamiki (原民喜) b. Japan, 1905–1951

HARA Tamiki (原民喜, Japan, 1905–1951) was a Japanese poet, essayist, and short story writer known for his slender output of poetry and prose during the prewar and immediate postwar periods. Hara’s most celebrated work, Summer Flowers, continues to be recognized as one of the most distinguished works of literature written by a survivor of the atomic bomb. 

As a central component of Dead Letter Room, the artist ("AT") corresponds with the personified remains of Hara Tamiki's literary archive ("H") in a collection of thirteen fabulative, transhistorical letters. The fictive texts are narrated across a disordered temporal and spatial landscape, and they draw on unofficial or illegitimate translations of Hara’s work.

The correspondence was written in English and has been translated into Japanese by Kyle Yamada and Kanoko Tamura. 

See: Letters to/from H


03. Contemporary Sites:
Hiroshima & Tokyo, Japan, 2022 

A photographic search for (or “survey” of) the material and spectral traces of Hara Tamiki’s life, and an inquiry into post-imperial and postwar erasures in the Japanese landscape. The series of photographs distantly echoes the language of the USSBS, as a visual index of absence-as-presence, disappearance, and the aftermath. 

Exhibition History:
Brookline Arts Center, MA, USA, 2024
TILT Institute for the Contemporary Image, PA, USA, 2023
ARCUS Project Open Studios, Ibaraki, Japan, 2022


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