|Detail from Yoshiki Araki, Mother & Son (1985), oil and straw on canvas, photo by Bob Lee, edited by Jeremiah Kim|
“When the bomb fell in Hiroshima his grandfather was there. The next day his mother, then a young girl, went into what was left of the city to search through the devastation for him.
|Yoshiki Araki, Adam and Eve (1986), oil and straw on canvas, photo by Bob Lee|
|Yoshiki Araki, Untitled (1996), mixed media, photo by Bob Lee|
|Yoshiki Araki, Mother & Son (1985), oil and straw on canvas, photo by Bob Lee|
|Yoshiki Araki, Physical Memory (Hiroshima) (date unknown), oil and wood on canvas, photo by Bob Lee|
Suffice to say that, surveying the tremendous distance between the kind of nuanced analysis developed by revolutionary thinkers like Newton versus our society’s pervading lack of awareness about its own endemic violences at-present, there are a number of harsh realities which remain to be confronted at the level of this country’s national consciousness. Most of us have not confronted, for instance, the reality that the United States has 6,800 nuclear warheads; or the reality that the United States maintains 800 military bases in 80 countries; or the reality that the United States military is the biggest polluter in the world; or the reality that the United States has sponsored fascists, drug lords, and terrorists in 35 countries, and executed at least 81 attempted regime changes since World War II.
In its quest for ruthless expansion, the United States has exported its conflicts abroad via limited proxy wars that fit right in between breaking news of Kanye West’s latest freakout and corporatized #Resistance ad campaigns on our social media feeds. The American system of indirect control over the resources and labor of less powerful nations has been implemented, more often than not, by shameless methods of war and debilitation—but we remain blissfully uninformed about the price of our domestic development, believing we live in a civil, free, and equal society.
We have yet to confront the reality that, at this moment, there are 18 wars taking place around the world, all of which bear the prolific mark of American empire in some shape or fashion. That Yemen is currently embroiled in a civil war because of U.S. intervention is an indisputable fact. That the U.S. government bankrolled a $1 billion CIA program to exacerbate the Syrian Civil War is another indisputable fact. That any one of the present or future U.S.-backed “foreign” conflicts could spill out into a world-engulfing nuclear war with mutual destruction guaranteed for all humankind is the reality we live in, whether we want to face it or not.
We have not confronted, lastly, the reality that Yoshiki Araki was one of millions to have been killed in the global war between people and private, profitable property—and this, only five decades after being born to a city destroyed under those disastrous pretenses of civilization, freedom, and equality.
To elide the troubling vision of artists like Yoshiki Araki is to ratify our society’s moral degradation and the inevitability of our collective ruin. To err on the side of the confrontation, however—to probe fearlessly, as Araki did, into the anatomy of America’s unspoken conventions—is to join the rest of humanity in its ongoing struggle towards building a new paradigm of peace that will last for generations to come.