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Into the Atomic Sunshine—Post-War Art under Japanese Peace Constitution Article 9

Puffin Room
435 Broome Street, 212-343-2881
January 12 - February 10, 2008
Reception: Saturday, January 12, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Curator: Shinya Watanabe

Vanessa Albury, Allora & Calzadilla, Kota Ezawa, Eric van Hove, Yutaka Matsuzawa, Yasumasa Morimura, Nobuyuki Ohura, Yoko Ono, Motoyuki Shitamichi, Yuken Teruya, Yukinori Yanagi

“We have been enjoying your atomic sunshine.” – General Courtney Whitney of GHQ, February 13, 1946

The Constitution of Japan was essentially written by US army officials from General Headquarters (GHQ) in 1947. Parts of “Article 9,” known as the Peace Constitution, renounce war and the maintaining of potentially belligerent forces as the sovereign right of the nation.

ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

This unique provision in the peace clause of the Constitution, unlike any seen elsewhere before or since, reflects the idealism of American New Dealers. The new Constitution was well received by the Japanese people, who had experienced the bitterness of war; and it has not been altered for 60 years. But now, faced with political instability in Asia and an upsurge of nationalism, its very existence is being questioned.

In a climate in which the Constitution is faced with the possibility of being revised, the art exhibition “Into the Atomic Sunshine – Post-War Art under Japanese Peace Constitution Article 9” attempts to highlight issues and raise awareness of the influence of the Peace Constitution, which played such an important role in shaping post-war Japan and has had such an enormous impact on the Japanese people, and the reaction of post-war Japanese art to it.

Article 9 played a large role in allowing Japan to recover from war and helped reshape the country. Japan has avoided direct confrontation with other countries for more than 60 years. Although Article 9 has kept Japan from direct involvement in wars, its indirect involvement in wars has meant that Article 9 has helped maintain a twisted status quo. This unique situation has given artists the opportunity to discover a theme to tackle and express in their works. Numerous artists tried to deal with difficulties such as post-war problems and identity issues; these works are also related to the connection between Article 9 and world peace.

Despite the uniqueness of Article 9, its very existence is, surprisingly, not well known in other countries. Through this exhibition, not only will post-war Japanese and non-Japanese art be introduced, but Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution will also be made more familiar to audiences outside Japan.

Named after the “Atomic Sunshine” Conference between the U.S. occupation administration and Japan representatives which created the Constitution of Japan, this exhibition will investigate the historic significance of Article 9 and the importance of its development, and the fact that there has been no Japanese blood shed as a result of direct military confrontation for 60 years after the end of World War II.
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