The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and celebrated multi-media artist Taiji Terasaki are proud to announce the next exhibition of Transcendients: Heroes At Borders—a living memory of the Japanese American concentration camps, and a tribute to those who continue the fight for democracy and justice for all. It will be on view at JANM from February 1 to March 29, 2020.
On the 78th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s executive order that authorized the atrocity of the camps, JANM and Terasaki have partnered to transform the museum space into a multi-sensory experience that brings together historic photography, mist projection, immersive installation, lenticular imagery, contemporary portraiture and videography to honor both the known and unsung “heroes at borders.”
“These are the heroes that advocate and fight for those who face discrimination, prejudice and inequity at the many borders that divide and separate us,” says Terasaki. “These heroes are an inspiration for fellow Americans—something we now need more than ever. By illuminating the stories of these individuals, we hope to educate attendees about the advocacy work they do and inspire a spirit of unity and action in support of democracy and justice for all. These stories will underscore that the forces of intolerance, injustice and human rights indignities, which resulted in the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, are ever-present today.”
In the museum’s main plaza will be a shipping container that’s designed to immerse visitors in the experience of today’s migrants desperate to escape the hardships of their home country, and the inhumane treatment they have endured at the U.S. border. Artistic visuals inspired by detention centers, and live-feed video projections onto mist will connect visitors to the plight of a detained migrant.
A series of lenticular structures will parallel past attacks on democracy with those we are currently seeing today, as well as explore the various “borders” the exhibit intends to spotlight.
In the Weingart Gallery, visitors will be able to view a short, world-premiere film projected on mist about Satsuki Ina, a Japanese American woman, born in the Tule Lake Segregation Center, who has dedicated her life to the study of community trauma and has become an advocate and counselor for children currently enduring the horrors of family separation and detention at the US/Mexico border.
In the next section of the exhibit, floor-to-ceiling images will display current events and threats to democracy bringing awareness to these various issues and highlighting that this is not just a U.S. issue.
The woven stories section of the exhibition will feature numerous individual weavings of imagery depicting the stories of the “heroes at borders” and highlighting the advocacy work they do. All images will then also be combined once again into one large-scale cohesive weaving.
The final section of the Transcendients: Heroes At Borders exhibition is a ceremonial offering at a memorial wall, where partners of the exhibition have been invited to pay tribute to passed loved ones or activists who have fought for justice in their communities.
In spite of the massive and globe-spanning subject matter tackled in this exhibition, it all strikes close to home for Terasaki. His own parents and grandparents were incarcerated during WWII. He says, “I, as well as all of us, have a responsibility to remember and analyze what happened then—to not look away, and to not lie to ourselves, so we can make sure this never happens again.”
Thus, an important aspect of the exhibition is to spotlight “borders" in their many incarnations—both physical and abstract—the environment of divisiveness they create, and the important figures working to transcend these borders. Whether it’s those fighting to rectify democratic injustices at the U.S. / Mexico border, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community fighting for equal rights, or women fighting for equal pay, these heroes use their personal experiences to build bridges of understanding that connect us at the core of our collective humanity.
Panel discussions, special performances, community gatherings, and the annual community Day of Remembrance that commemorates the World War II Japanese American mass incarceration, will be held throughout the run of this exhibit. The schedule will be announced as it is confirmed.
Transcendients: Heroes At Borders will be on view from February 1 to March 29, 2020. The Japanese American National Museum is located at 100 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Taiji Terasaki is a Japanese American artist based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Growing up in a family of scientists and creatives, with a formal arts education, Terasaki has spent more than 30 years exploring avant-garde innovations in his craft, working in photography, sculpture, immersive and large-scale installations, and pioneering mediums like mist projections as canvas. His cutting-edge presentations are often juxtaposed by the subjects of cultural and environmental conservation, preservation, and restoration. Terasaki made his public debut in 2017 with REBIRTH at Honolulu’s Ward Center, and Edible Landscapes for the Trillenium in conjunction with “Contact 3017: Hawaiʻi in 1,000 Years” at Honolulu Museum of Art. That same year, his first solo exhibition, Feeding the Immortals, premiered at the Ravizza Brownfield Gallery. Stemming from Terasaki’s search for ritual and meaning in death following the passing of his father, the exhibit was comprised of mixed media works with ceramic, photography, vapor projections, video, and ceremonial performance—all honoring and paying tribute to those beloved who have passed on. Since then, Terasaki has invested his considerable energy into large-scale and civic art projects. He had shown in Hawaiʻi, throughout the continental U.S., and internationally–most notably at the Curitiba Biennial in 2017. Terasaki’s most recent project, Transcendients: Immigrant Stories of Place, poetically holds space for the immigrant populations that comprise America, celebrating their contributions through technology-based storytelling, contemporary portraiture, and immersive experiences.
Driven to advance Honolulu’s arts community, Terasaki served on the board of directors for the Honolulu Museum of Art for many years and currently serves on the board of directors for the Honolulu Biennial Foundation. He is Board President of the Taiji and Naoko Terasaki Family Foundation, as a board member for the L.A.-based Terasaki Family Foundation, and as Board President of Art Explorium, a beloved nonprofit arts foundation for children that he co-founded with his wife Naoko and family friends Nate and Heather Smith. Terasaki most recently founded Terasaki Exhibitions, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to inspire global change through art.
Terasaki studied in the MFA programs at both Hunter College in New York and Cal State Long Beach, and holds a BFA from UC Irvine. He currently resides in Honolulu with his wife and two children.