In fall 2014 I embarked on a pilgrimage to a site just south of Half-Moon Bay, California. The purpose of the trip was to visit a particular point on US soil and gaze precisely west. Directly across the ocean, on the exact same latitude (37.421467), lies the Fukushima nuclear power plant that saw a series of hydrogen explosions and meltdowns after the March 2011 tsunami that struck Japan. During the trip, I extensively photographed the haunting landscape that existed between the coastal highway and the beach, collecting “specimens” to also photograph when I returned home. 37.421467 is an extension of earlier projects: for the last few years through media appropriation, sound, text, video, and installation, I have explored the gravity of the Fukushima accident, seeking to underscore challenges to sustained empathetic engagement with global environmental tragedies. The Cowell Ranch Beach provided the closest conceptual point in the US to the accident, though obviously not visible to the eye, as 5069.1 miles of ocean exists at the land’s edge. The time spent in this landscape was an act of “seeing”––a poetically futile gesture to make the invisible visible. Equipped with a compass and a camera, I photographed foggy landscapes of harvested brussels sprouts, flocks of crows, extensive beach detritus, and the ocean itself, while aware of the rumors/reports of plumes, both through air and water, that have delivered some amount of fallout onto the west coast. I used precise directions as my guide, as a way to anchor the photographs literally to place, but also to strengthen the relationship between this landscape and what lies directly across the Pacific. For me here, the camera acts as a symbolic microscope, but magnifying absence––pointing to what is not here, but what exists closer than we can intellectualize or feel.
Diptych photograph (north and south views from Cowell Ranch Beach), Tsunami broadcast still
Single-channel video and sound. View full video here
Here, footage recorded on site with the camera aimed precisely west, is composited with broadcast footage of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant hydrogen explosions. Over time, the smoke increases in scale, as if moving closer, becoming seemingly innocuous vapor over the horizon.