The mirror of memory: Constructions of hell in the Marukis' nuclear murals

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How does art cultivate moral reflexivity? Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi, eyewitnesses to the atomic aftermath at Hiroshima, were the first artists to publicly display works showing the effects of nuclear irradiation on the human body. While their work has long been considered antiwar, few attempts have been made to theorize how their compositions structure an ethical response to aggression. Three interconnected zones of representation are explored: the artists' murals, Toshi's testimonials regarding the creation of the murals, and the museum in which the murals are displayed. Bringing Japanese Buddhist traditions for the depiction of suffering (etoki 'picture explanation,' hell screen art) into conversation with contemporary theories of performance (Turner's concept of the "subjunctive mood," Taylor's notion of "the repertoire"), memory (Kansteiner's "collected memory," Auron's "pain of knowledge"), and museum studies (Crane's "distortion"), I articulate a contemporary Japanese model of nuclear criticism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1614-1631+1946-1947
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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