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"Coral Sea 「珊瑚海」" 2018


lithograph
printed at Itazu Litho-
grafik, Tokyo, Japan
43.5" x 32"
limited edition 10
In the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

 

– from the series “Coral Sea”

 

“Coral Sea” is an expanded rhetoric, a double entendre, and a story of an abstract colonial sea zone, drawing references from the coincidences in the familial history of the paternal, Griffith and the maternal, Shukuya who fought as enemies for United States and Japan, respectively during the Pacific War. Ironically, the battle has not much heroic attribution, as both countries suffered severe losses and the Coral Sea Day is only celebrated in Australia for the commemoration of the thwarted Japanese invasion. My maternal grandfather, Admiral Heiji Shukuya, was co-captain of the flagship aircraft carrier Shōhō in this operation. This lightly shadowed task force of 20 ships was not the main operative in this Southern Pacific effort as there was another massive fleet headed towards Guadalcanal.  

 

During a high level officer interview in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor, my grandfather was asked the mandatory question, “What are our chances of fighting the U.S.? Will we be victorious?,” to which he bluntly answered, “Not a chance..” The Shōhō was a makeshift aircraft carrier built originally from a submarine support ship with a runway platform mounted on top to hold two dozen Zero fighter planes. A decoy mission that was expected to annihilate, disappear and left unaccounted. It could be interpreted as the first suicide mission and the task force was crippled by losing the Shōhō and a destroyer and a few other warships. Grandfather Shukuya did survive to tell this story to my mother and my uncles, although I never knew him since he passed away during the tough post war times. As his only work experience was in the Japanese Navy, the war’s end rendered him jobless. He was a budding art collector before the breakout of war and garnered a fine collection of Japanese and Chinese art during his travels. In the occupation of Japan, much of this treasure was confiscated or sold cheap to earn a living. My mother’s recurring story of his passing is that he had a heart failure while admiring one of his treasured Chinese vase. 

 

Long after a decade and a few years, my mother and father met to learn more of each other’s language. My birth carried new meaning to the Shukuya family and perhaps the Griffiths. The conception of “Coral Sea” is a retrospective in the making of the untold family history and the identity reflected within. Impossible hybrids are represented in these blueprints and diagrams of war machines that are constructed and fused of American and Japanese parts. The architecture and designs are so welded in of opposing mechanics that it cannot possibly function. The sea that the ships and planes vanished do not belong to any country. The ever-changing tide won’t let that happen.