Picturing the Invisible冥々を写す

Organised in memory of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, PICTURING THE INVISIBLE explores the realities of life in the wake of “3.11.” This seismic event, which claimed 16,000 lives, moved the very Earth more than ten centimetres on its axis and shook Japan to its core. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan was surely right to describe it as “the most severe crisis that Japan has faced since World War Two.” Ten years later, Japan faces another crisis in the guise of a global pandemic. Yet even as Japan grapples with COVID-19, the struggle to rebuild the Tohoku region continues. Thousands of workers toil at Fukushima Daiichi, in the hope of decommissioning the stricken nuclear power plant—a task expected to take until at least 2050. Many more labour to decontaminate the surrounding countryside. But even today, vast swathes of land remain uninhabitable. More than 35,000 people are unable to return to their homes and many more choose not to—concerned that life in Fukushima may not be as safe as the government claims. For even today, public trust in the Japanese state and its experts remains bruised. The confusion caused by poor crisis communication is still fresh in Japan’s collective memory. So too are the findings of independent investigations into the causes of the nuclear disaster, which concluded that it was a crisis “made in Japan”: one which had its roots in a culture of cosy collusion between the government, industry, and regulators, often imagined as forming a “nuclear village.” The 3.11 crisis is long since over, but the effects of the triple disaster are still with us today.

PICTURING THE INVISIBLE brings together seven talented photographers, working in the affected territories. Their art makes visible the legacies of 3.11: the ghostly touch of radiation, lingering traumas, and the resilience of those communities rebuilding their lives in its wake. Each work is paired with a commentary provided by an expert, policymaker, author, or activist, which you will find below each image.


2022 Ziman Award, EASST


Takashi Arai | Rebecca Bathory | Thom Davies | Masamichi Kagaya and Satoshi Mori | Yoi Kawakubo | Giles Price | Lieko Shiga


Prof. Sheila Jasanoff | Dr. Peter Wynn Kirby | Prof. Jacques Lochard | Dr. Robert Macfarlane | Prof. Maxime Polleri | Dr. Hisako Sakiyama | Prof. Richard Samuels | Prof. Kyoko Sato | Aileen Mioko Smith | Dr. Brigitte Steger | Prof. Mikihito Tanaka | Sir David Warren | Prof. Kohei Watanabe | Prof. Brian Wynne

Student Collaboration

Like so many projects, this exhibition has been moulded by COVID-19. The pandemic has not only determined when and where the exhibition might be hung, but who has been involved in its curation. At a time when the pandemic robbed my students of so much of their university experience, I saw in this project an opportunity to offer them something extra. To this end, I chose to integrate the curation of this exhibition into my teaching at the Department for Science and Technology Studies. Students from the Responsibility in Science, Engineering, and Technology (RESET) course have been involved at every stage of Picturing the Invisible’s organisation and you will find some of their reflections on the exhibited works hosted on this site.

Dr. Makoto Takahashi
Lecturer, Department for Science and Technology Studies, TU Munich


Downing College
Regent Street
Dates: 23 February till 23 April 2023
Visit: Wednesday to Sunday: 12pm - 5pm. Free Admission.

TU München
Arcisstraße 21
Munich 80333
Dates: 8 June 2022 till 26 June 2022
Visit: Weekdays: 11am - 7pm; Weekends: 10am - 5pm

Royal Geographical Society (RGS)
1 Kensington Gore
Dates: 25 October 2021 till 23 December 2021

Experience online

Select one of the images above or click here to start with the first photograph.