Atomic Guitar – Pump Up The Fallout

Fuyuki Yamakawa

The meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi set off by the Tōhoku earthquake (which occurred despite Japan’s sophisticated prevention systems and the country’s solid reputation in disaster management) has rekindled a cold-war imagery of atomic Armageddon which had been dormant under a spell of reassuring pro-nuclear propaganda. After the inability of private companies operating in the nuclear sector to ensure public safety was exposed by evidence of negligent management at Fukushima, the fear of nuclear energy has spread again through populations worldwide, halting the revival of the industry. In Tokyo, four months after the disaster, an exhibition entitled “Atomic Site” voiced the widespread fears. The exhibition featured slogans such as “No Place To Hide” and “What to do in case of a nuclear disaster: stop trusting the government”, referencing the old placebo remedy of “duck and take cover”, taught to generations during civil defense training. Taking inspiration from the practice of DIY radiation surveying which has taken hold since radioactive material was released in the atmosphere at Fukushima, Fuyuki Yamakawa has produced an installation in which two Geiger counters measure samples of contaminated earth collected over 100 km from the site of the disabled power plant. The relentless ticks produced by the devices are amplified to excite the strings of two Fender Stratocasters, ” Atomic Guitar Mark I” & “Atomic Guitar Mark II”. Derivative of a subculture of guitar machismo, the bright yellow guitars marked with the atomic emblem suggest that a culture of testosterone feeding on increasing amounts of energy is posing a threat to survival. Perhaps when these guitars stop sounding, Japan’s soil will be once again clear of contamination.