Friday, 20 May 2011


After the Earthquake...

I last posted a month before the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant melt down. 3 months later, things on the surface appear calm in Tokyo. Food is back on the shelves, there are fewer aftershocks but gradually news about the seriousness of the TEPCO fiasco seeps out.

Pictures of Tohoku seem to have all but disappeared from the International news pages but Japanese news continues to moderately cover relief efforts and updates. Meanwhile in Tohoku people are feeling the struggle of days spent trying to survive, to grieve, to keep going, to think ahead when, in may cases their security has been ripped away. During a recent trip I was struck by the endless views of rubble and destruction. Like apocalyptic scenes houses were floating in the river, or just not there at all, apart from a staircase. To be constantly faced with this as the "image" that you see everyday must be taking it`s toll.

Despite these circumstances the people I met there were amazing -  kind hearted, looking out for each other, steady, hopeful but also in a lot of pain. Old people and children were clearly traumatised by the tsunami. I listened to many stories of how they escaped and what they saw. For many the daily reality is one of living a day at a time. There was much talk of the possibility of another quake, and in Ishinomaki the water at high tide was extremely high. This is an aftermath that will take years if not decades to recover from and re-build.

But in the middle of all this pain and destruction I think about the process of grieving, of growth, of recovery. Before something new can be born the old must be laid to rest, and in this case there is a lot of work to be done. My hope is that the government will support those "supporting". Japan does not have a great record for either people speaking out against things, or an environment where emotions are readily shared. I would love to see more openness and people sharing their experiences and being encouraged not only to "ganbate" but to give their pain a voice.

While the CNN news feed gave us many pictures of despair there are also some amazing stories of courage and joy.

. One man scuba dived through the water to rescue his wife and mother.
and in terms of the arts community (in the broadest sense) many artists and musicians are getting involved in projects raising money for the many many needs.

Art Action

Friday, 11 February 2011

Education, collaboration, neurobiology,mental health, dreams

Being sick has its advantages. One being forced to stay at home and rest, which for me involves sleeping but also finding many new and interesting things via the internet.

I watched Wall Street last night. It seemed to lack pace and a clear focus but it was very clear to me that the current economic situation is like a Banyan tree with roots growing up all over the place. This problem is systemic and not just about money but about community, values, family and so its not a logical next thought but I was happy to come across the work of David Gauntlett who has written a book - Making is connecting. So much great stuff happening there and at the Social Spaces web site. I am looking forward to reading "Hand Made" edited by Tessy Britton.

Ok, so backtrack and I previously asked about friendship but a larger question is what is community? How do we connect? Somewhere in India children are being read stories to by English Grannies - this is one example of the way technology can bring non physical communities together, but can technology negatively do this? And if so how can we make sure that it is positive.

 I think here of Hikikomi who hide away or a recent student of mine who seemed to only enjoy video games and was eventually asked to leave school because she nearly jumped out of a 4th floor window. This is extremely sad - children need access to stimulation and community not to mention a clearer understanding and compassion of mental health needs in Japan, one that comes without stigma. A nicely branded project in the UK Mind Apples with the tag line "love your mind". Asking people to list 5 things which help them feel better mentally it is a self empowering approach to mental health. I like that - asking what helps you?
From their blog:-
 Meanwhile, I’d like to share a lovely e-mail I received recently from Dr Keith Gaynor, a clinical psychologist at the excellent Institute of Psychiatry who specialises in theraputic treatments for schizophrenia. They’ve gathered a list of activities that they enjoy, and which also have clinical evidence to support their efficacy in improving mental wellbeing.
“I sent your email round the office (Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry). We got a load of responses and I’ve collated the top five.
1. Do one totally absorbing activity (approx 30 mins)
2. Do something silly/funny
3. Do something nice for someone else
4. Smile
5. Remember it’s just a thought, it’s not real
Hope it’s useful”


some great projects.

In TOKYO Patrick Newell - school founder, and NGO founder of living dreams - aiming to give to orphaned children in Japan. He has also completed an interesting documentary 21:21 about 21st century education. Here is a little taster:

Jill Bolte Taylor Interview from 21Foundation on Vimeo.

Hans Rosling Interview from 21Foundation on Vimeo.

I know its not connected but I thought it one of those sychronicities that Matthew 21:21 is "Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done."

 In America and close in name is Learning Dreams  - a community project which helps to practically explore what their dreams are and take steps towards realizing them before working with the children on their own dreams. To believe, to dream, to aspire.

In the autumn I took part in the Tokyo Dreamers section of the Trust Art Dreamers project. 
My intuition told me 2011 was going to be the year if unexpected surprises. I am looking forward to seeing how all these free floating pieces fit together.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

There are 6 parts - to follow if you scroll down you can see from part one, (Japanese/German)...