Dead Letter Room (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.

Central to Dead Letter Room is a series of thirteen fabulative letters, penned between the artist (“AT”) and the personified remains of Hara’s literary archive (“H”). 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 undelivered correspondence crosses themes of history, memory, spectatorship and language, and it speculates within the fractures of atomic time. The correspondence triangulates with reproduced photographs from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey–conducted by the U.S. military in the postwar Pacific–and with original photographs of revisited sites in contemporary Japan.

Dead Letter Room reads Hara Tamiki’s literary archive against visual representations of American military occupation and surveillance, and in doing so, it attends Lisa Lowe’s proposition to implicate discrete repositories in and with each other. The project presses on archival boundaries between historical “fact” and “fiction,” and it proposes lingering in the pregnant breaks between language, light and time.

Related Works: Letters to/from H


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