A red and yellow artistic rendition of the radioactivity symbol.

Image: Shutterstock

The site of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown is quiet: soundless, empty, stirred only by the earth. But Fukushima is not voiceless: the radioactive site has now become an art project called “Don’t Follow the Wind,” a collaboration between 12 Japanese and foreign artists. Because only the artists are allowed into the space, “Don’t Follow the Wind” might be the world’s most inaccessible installation.

The project has only one access point to tour the exhibit: a “non-visitor’s center” at the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. Visitors cannot even purchase a catalogue of the exhibit’s art. But there’s a reason for that, says contributing artist Ryuta: “We didn’t think having a catalogue of photographs would do it just justice…By its very nature, this will be a long exhibition, and the artworks will change over time.”

The art project has turned ordinary spaces like private homes, farms, a recreation center, and a warehouse into responses to the nuclear disaster. Franco Mattes, curator and contributor to the project, says that because of the radioactivity it is unlikely that people will ever be able to return to the area. To keep the public away from the art exhibit mirrors the fate of the land, “unseen and unmaintained.”

“People will only be able to access the works when the venue itself is livable again and homeowners can return,” Mattes says. The exhibit is to remain untouched, allowed to change with the passage of time.

The project has encountered some criticism: it was accused by Mother Jones of “feasting, once more, on the apocalyptic image of nuclear disaster.” The publication suggested that the artists could do more good by “starting a discussion with science about the pros and cons of nuclear energy as a solution to global warming.”

The name of the exhibit comes from the smart way people fled the nuclear disaster. They leapt from their cars to see which direction the wind blew, and then drove the other way to avoid the cloud of radiation swelling from the site.