Kio Grifith

white elephants : fukushima daiichi reactors


original footage from Wonder Valley, California, October 2013

edited for short film release, August 31, 2019


the deluge. 
the japanese term of interpreting the transitory period of
the crescendo of cicadas singing in late August.
the downpouring storm 
rearranges the pitch 
from dry to wet.
from white to gray. 
noise to silence.


the cicada, or “semi” the Japanese word made of two root radicals.
insect and vibrate.
the popularized poetic myth about this insect is its ephemeral life.
emerging from the muck beneath the towering forest, 
it scales the craggy bark to a height 
that marks its place of transformation.
and the beginning of its flight 
which will end in a week.


the white noise of late summer cicadas 
disappear into the distant 
reddening clouds and 
yellowing leaves of 
early fall.

the news of eastern Japan’s earthquake of 2011, 
triggered a series of disasters, from natural to human conditions. 


hardly a distant and foreign problem anymore than everyone’s responsibility.


the repercussions are still uncontainable. the problem cannot be sealed or solved. 


into the eternal air and water, it will spread invisibly.




The ongoing project, “white elephants: fukushima daiichi reactors” is based on the March 2011 chain of disasters in Japan. Natural disasters, earthquake and tsunami, triggering human-made disasters, neglected dysfunctional nuclear reactor and the uncontrollable spillage, which folded out into a global issue and consciousness towards the neglected environments that are continuously brought up in arguments but hardly ever attended. My practice is founded on the dual nationality and ethnicity of my familial heritage, nuance and interpretations —part Japanese and American. I create narratives, scenarios, and models that demonstrate multicultural thought and evocations. In this particular work, the reactors at Fukushima are transformed into radio-transmittable vessels carrying messages of hope, fear and danger. The filmed site, Wonder Valley, California, is in the High Desert Test Sites domain where nuclear bombs were experimented. As part of my sound installation and performance, I carried these radio(active) bottles across the barren land and placed it into abandoned shacks while the curators and audience were in observance. The allegory of the sound emitted by these bottles uncannily sound like the short lived cicadas of late summer.