Katsushige Nakahashi: The Depth of Memory

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ZERO Project KAITEN/San Francisco


Kaiten, which means “a turn toward heaven,” were one-man submarines that were exclusively designed for suicide missions; in essence human-guided torpedoes. As with Nakahashi’s other Zero Projects the artist – along with a team of volunteers – will construct a three-dimensional replica of the Kaiten; the sculpture is constructed entirely of photographs. This is the first Kaiten that Nakahashi has ever created, however, he views this work as part of his nearly decade-long running Zero Project series. (See the construction process | in English | 日 本語 ).

Nakahashi begins by photographing the surface of a 1:32-scale toy model with a microlens; on average Nakahashi photographs every square centimeter 27 times. After the photographs are developed Nakahashi asks volunteers from the community to help assemble the object, these volunteers begin to painstakingly tape each of the individual standard-sized photographs together. When all the parts are assembled, what emerges is a full-scale replica of the toy model. The Kaiten that will be created at Camerawork will at the conclusion of the exhibition be burned, completing the cathartic process that Nakahashi sees as essential to the project.

Nakahashi’s Zero Projects are never generic, but rather, he builds specific crafts. The Kaiten that will be built at Camerawork is the exact modeled that was piloted by Yoshiteru Kubo, who amazingly survived two missions. (a tiny one-person suicide submarine used by the Japanese in the war to little effect)

Typically with Nakahashi’s Zero Projects the historical resonance of place is very significant; building specific Zeros that have some sort of relationship with the local geography. In this case however, because Kubo’s Kaiten missions were aborted, as he says, “there is no significant place where the Kaiten landed or hit.”

The Kaitens were usually mounted to larger “mother submarines” and were launched from mounts on the deck of a submarine. Kubo was assigned to the Japanese Imperial Naval Submarine I-363, and on May 28th 1945 an enemy vessel was spotted; Kubo was subsequently deployed, however, he never received orders from the captain of the I-363 to initiate the attack, so he returned to the mother ship. As it turned out the captain believed that the weather conditions would’ve made it next to impossible for Kubo to hit his target. He is one of the only Kaiten pilot who survived after being deployed.

On January 10, 2008, Kubo passed away.

See an earlier ZERO Project