June 30, 2016

The artist Victor Brauner found himself repeatedly painting self-portraits in which he had just one eye, only to lose it seven years later, intervening in a fight.*

David Mandell woke from his dreams, compelled to draw his visions of a plane hitting towers on 11 September 1996, five years before the twin towers collapsed in New York.

There are many instances where artist’s works appears eerily similar to events that have happened much later, seemingly predicting the future. Are these instances mere coincidence, or are certain people able to open up their consciousness in ways that we cannot explain? 

Let’s explore that very question through the work of Yasuyo Tanaka. The photograph below first in the 1990s, contains her own precognitive experience of the Fukushima disaster:


Yasuyo Tanaka Beyond time and place 2016
Photo of abandoned school, taken around the mid 1990s in Tokyo.
Imagine the landscape that spreads out beyond the corridor door.

“Many years ago I took a photograph in an abandoned school corridor in Japan where the clock’s hands said 2:20. I felt the day to use this photo would come eventually. The March 11th, 2011 earthquake was at 2:46 PM. I foresaw meltdowns of Fukushima’s nuclear power plants, and remembered that photo when I thought about the lives of children who would receive the most serious damage from radiation exposure. The image that I created by erasing the hands of the clock, and superimposing the images of clouds, suggests prophecies.

America’s Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 was the first serious meltdown of a nuclear power plant. Malformed dandelions 36 years after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. Radioactive waste dangerously stored on Fukushima farmland. American soldier recruitment and Mickey Mouse billboards.

Can you predict the future from these photos?”

Yasuyo Tanaka


Yasuyo Tanaka, Downwind Etters, Pennsylvania, 2015
On March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island’s nuclear accident was the worst nuclear accident ever.
Most residents who experienced that accident don’t live there anymore.


Yasuyo Tanaka, Radiation Migration, Minamisoma, Fukushima, 2015
Temporary storage of nuclear waste from decontamination efforts. These bags don’t block radiation.


What was your original intention when creating these photographs?

My original intention when creating the works was to train and exercise our imaginations. I want viewers to develop their ability to read the information in my work.

How do they fit in with the rest of your practice?

My inspiration to create art comes from my experiences. Learning the ability to read the information comes from building up my experiences.

Tell me about the moment when you first connected the photograph that you took in the abandoned school with the earthquake and Fukushima disaster?

During my long-term stay in Japan in 2007, I heard from a friend that there were 54 nuclear plants in Japan. I regretted that I had been too busy with my personal life in New York and that I hadn’t paid much attention to my home country, Japan. My hometown is not so far from Fukushima.

Before 2011, I warned my family and friends about the dangers of Fukushima’s nuclear power plants especially if an earthquake would ever hit that region. As soon as I heard about the earthquake on March 11, 2011, I foresaw meltdowns of Fukushima’s nuclear power plants.

I remembered that photo when I thought about the lives of children who would receive the most serious damage from radiation exposure. The fact that there are no children in the photograph, suggests the disappearance of the future. I felt that this photo of the abandoned school was a warning of a sad, desolate future.

When you write ‘one event occurred as the result of other overlapping events. Look at what’s happening in the world. Then, explore stories of our future that become visible from under this sky’, can you elaborate on what you mean here?

Various events are happening in places we aren’t aware of. However, we can see connections with these events when we review our lives. Events are continuing to occur in our daily lives.

We are able to see our future by training our senses and cultivating our imaginations. Past, present, and future, all things are linked.

Since the earthquake of March 11 2011, how has your work changed?

Research and documentation became important parts of my artistic practice in order to express invisible themes.

Do you think there is yet another future contained within the photos?


What do you foresee in a post-Fukushima Japan (or world)?

I foresaw that people would wake up to the nuclear threats and protest against nuclear power and nuclear weapons in a post-Fukushima world. The ongoing Fukushima nuclear accidents and its continually spreading leaks have become an opportunity to work on nuclear issues, education, and organizing.

We can change the future by learning from the negative legacies. We must not turn away from the negative image and the negative premonition that are great teachers. The prophecies are warnings for our future.

Each one of our awakenings changes our future. That is an important start.


Yasuyo Tanaka, Silence of Nature, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 2015
Dandelion found in Harrisburg, ten miles away from Three Mile Island nuclear power plants.
I witnessed malformed plants that blend into the beautiful landscape.


Yasuyo Tanaka, American Dream, Braddock, Pennsylvania 2014
This town lost 90% of its peak population since its steel industry collapsed.
New houses have recently been built in the depressed town.


Yasuyo Tanaka is a multidisciplinary artist and educator committed to social engagement. Her interactions with people and studying human relationships informs her work. Through her artistic practice, she works to fill the gap between art and journalism. Her perspective changed when she moved to the USA. The history and geography of the USA and Japan influence her work. After the Great East Japan Earthquake caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, nuclear issues became important themes for her. International disputes, environmental issues, borders, discrimination, identity, media literacy, and self-transformation are motivations for her work.

This article is part of the Prophecies theme by the Art Department, in which we are exploring how artistic approaches to predictions of the future have shaped us today. For the next quarter we will be publishing articles by researchers, writers and artists that explore this theme. Yasuyo Tanaka is one of the selected proposals from the Open Call for Prophecies.

*Cardeña, Etzel; Iribas, Ana E.; Reijman, Sophie (2012). ART AND PSI. The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 76, No. 1. pp. 3-25

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