Slow-down + Stillness, Incongruence

from You Saw Nothing: Sight, Digital Video, post-3.11 Japan

Kainuma sees Fukushima as an example of such a status of periphery within the developmentalism of post-war Japan. Despite the geographical countermeasures planned, the periphery was abandoned to competition and left in an increasingly fragile position as investment in infrastructure was shifted to enhance the international connectivity of the country, away from the goal of increasing domestic connectivity to Tokyo and Osaka as described in the 1987 version of the Act.* This revision showed the aspect for the internationalisation of Tokyo though investment in international connectivity. It was also reflected in the privatisation of the National Rail and Japan Airways in 1987, as much as it showed decentralisation.**

Political scientist Osamu Watanabe describes neoliberalism in Japan as a reconstitution of developmentalism, pointing to the lack of maturation of a welfare state in his contributed essay for the Japanese translation of A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005) by David Harvey.*** Harvey’s observation of the neoliberal doctrine is as a reconstitution of class power.**** Showing affinity with Harvey’s observation on power, Kainuma describes the reconstitution of the dominant power between the centre and the periphery in the advancement of the centre–periphery structure as “the voluntary and strategic approach”.***** As we shall see later, he also describes this state as one of “automatic and voluntary obedience” for the survival of the periphery.˜ The degradation of the state of the periphery in the age of globalisation and neoliberalism is, according to Kainuma, advanced and perpetuated.



We have looked at the pre- and post-war constructions of power inequality between the centre and the periphery, as a result of which the peripheries are impoverished today. Fukushima, which Kainuma described as one of these impoverished peripheries, has been embedded within the post-war advancement of the centre–periphery structure. As the peripherality was reconstituted and perpetuated by the uneven development and financial dependence, the periphery has been left in the permanent shadow of centralisation.

The high-growth period ended due to the oil crisis in the 1970s. This is generally understood as the end of the post-war growth. Japan slowly moved to become a neoliberal state in the 1980s, conducting privatisation in the belief that so doing would lead to a resurgence of growth.

However, rapid growth has been replaced by slow-down. Speed, as we have built its semiotics, is the capitalist drive, namely the drive for growth, progress, and advancement. It is also the identification that marked the post-war nation and the era that began in the ashes of World War II. The high-growth period manifested speed in the economy. On this basis, the semiotics of speed in this premise portrays post-war Japan in the forward movement, an identification of the nation with speed.

This section elaborates this semiotics of speed from the perspective of post-growth and the periphery with the aesthetic manifestation of slow-down in the forward movement. Slow- down, as opposed to the fastest point, which was what the centralist and peripheralist vision of the past century dreamed of achieving, is the consequence of centralisation, development, and growth. Slow-down is embodied by fragmentation of the forward movement of digital video in a slide show. Consisting of digital photographs subjected to a mechanism of automated shift, the slide show rebuilds the forward movement (speed) by presenting the fragments of digital images. You Saw Nothing in Fukushima, therefore, portrays the post-growth nation within the forward movement.

In the aesthetics of slow-down, an accelerating and intensifying drive for growth is stalled. The fastest point is an impossible point to achieve. The never-attainable fastest point, the highest point of modernity, thus, emerges as an impossible imaginary point, a myth. The fragmentation, from this point of view, signifies the remnants of the drive.

Unlike the digital photographs, the inserted digital video footage Dead End remains at the actual physical speed of the moving automobile. It recovers the unfragmented state of speed, in which the viewers are taken on a seamless road journey. It is structurally a congruent state with the forward momentum, as we see in the next section, as opposed to stillness as an incongruent state against the momentum within the forward movement of digital video. The journey is rendered structurally with the forward movement of digital video, where speed recovers acceleration and intensification, the characteristic of the modernist, or historical, drive by which the nation was accelerated towards the impossible fastest point. The sense of intoxication in the recovery of speed is an illusional state referring to the resurgence of growth that post-growth Japan believed in, the glory of the past.

The automobile reaches a road closure, however, a dead end, due to the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act, at a point 20 kilometres from the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi NPP. The motion stops. The incessant slide-show images of the 3.11 disaster sites are only replayed. The slide-show state, identifying the nation with the economic state of slowness, leaves the viewers in the reality of the apotheosis of growth.


Stillness, Incongruence


Towards the end of Dead End, the road closure due to the Act, the recovered speed, the congruent state with the forward momentum, is lost again. It is back to the fragmented state of speed, the incessant slide-show images of the economic state of slowness. This section discusses the incongruent state against the momentum, the stillness. In the last section, we looked at the two types of congruent movements rendered in the forward momentum: the fragmentation (slow-down) and the recovery of speed.

On the other hand, the three clips of inserted digital video, namely Wind and Rain, A Seabird, and Shore, are rendered in the forward movement incongruently within the semiotics of speed. With the animals, plants, wind, and waves being videographed outside the automobile with the use of a fixed camera, the camera focuses on the stillness of the environments, where the videographed subjects exist as a part of this environment. In the aftermath of the 3.11 disasters which caused widespread dissemination of radioactive pollution into the air and water, these videographed animals and nature are, just as much as humans, enduring, suffering, and exposed victims. The enduring stillness of the environments creates a state of lack of motion, which produces a sharp contrast with the photographed images from the moving automobile, an embodiment of speed. That is to say, within this contrast, the stillness as an associated aspect of the forward momentum is an incongruent state against the forward movement of digital video that is tied to the capitalist drive for growth and development. As the shadow of this drive, the sacrificed environment is rendered within the forward movement, embodying an incongruent state with the capitalist drive of the forward momentum. The incongruent state against the forward momentum is, therefore, from an environmental perspective, a resistance against compression; speed.˜˜

Antonioni embodied decompression in Zabriskie Point within the narrative of the story through Daria’s and Mark’s disinterest in the capitalist drive for compression. Antonioni also rendered the space of Death Valley and Phoenix, a Marxist geographical space subject to compression, within the ineluctable spatiality of the two-dimensional space of film. This second strategy is structural to the medium of film. This is to say the decompression is embodied by a structural engagement with the ineluctable spatiality of the two-dimensional space of film.

In contrast, You Saw Nothing in Fukushima’s structural engagement is with the forward movement. The resistance or decompression that You Saw Nothing in Fukushima embodies is the incongruent state against the forward movement. Iain Borden, cited fully in part 1, noted regarding motion tied to modernity that “films help us understand that we often live dynamically and without the necessity of constant presence of self-reflective or rationalised thought”. If film, or any type of moving images, produced from a moving automobile, by virtue of the nature of its shared forward momentum, is a way to understand without the necessity of a constant presence of self-reflective or rationalised thought, the incongruent state that is embodied and produced by videographing outside the automobile is a rationalised reflection. The realm of sight that Wind and Rain, A Seabird, and Shore offer is such a space of reflection, in another word, contemplation, on modernity. Rendering the environmental pollution within the forward movement, these three inserted clips of digital video are contemplations on the economic growth of the past century in an explorative relation to ecology and the periphery. We shall explore the stillness fully in chapter 2.

*Katsuhisa Tsujimoto, “The Contemporary Need for Spatial Integration and the Implementation of the Transport System” in Eiji Ooizumi and Yoshiharu Yamada eds. Socioeconomics of Space, Tokyo: Nihon-keizai-hyoronsya, 2003.p. 140.  **Ibid.
***Osamu Watanabe, “Neoliberalism in Japan: A Contributed Essay for Harvey’s Neoliberalism”, in David Harvey, Neoliberalism: Historical Development and Today, Trans. Osamu Watanabe, Nariya Morita, Chigaya Kinoshita, Sadahatu Ooya, and Yoshitaka Nakamura, translated from A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
****David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
*****Hiroshi Kainuma, Theory of ‘Fukushima’: Why the
Nuclear Power Village Was Created, Tokyo: Seidoshya, 2011. p. 41.  ˜Ibid., p. 375.
˜˜See further details of environmental issues in Japan researched by Kenichi Miyamoto, the pioneer in Environmental Economics and Finance. His award-winning publications include A Critical History of Environmental Pollution in Postwar Japan, Tokyo: Iwanami-shoten, 2014; Environmental Economics. New Edition, Tokyo: Iwanami-shoten, 2007; and Fearsome Pollution, Tokyo: Iwanami-shoten, 1964.
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