This Place is a Message

An Outdoor Installation by Kei Ito and Andrew Paul Keiper

Jun 5—Sep 5, 2021


ArtYard is pleased to present, This Place is a Message, by Kei Ito and Andrew Paul Keiper. In this outdoor installation, Ito and Keiper create an installation about the necessity of remembering, even as time corrodes our grasp on the past. Ito, whose grandfather survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and Keiper, whose grandfather worked as an engineer on the Manhattan Project, collaborate on artwork about their shared heritage, seeking to heal the generational trauma wrought by the bombing, and to insist on the urgency of the current nuclear threat. For This Place is a Message, presented at ArtYard in Frenchtown, NJ, they have created a site-specific installation, using 108 concrete cubes, steel, sound and exposed but entombed photographic film. Ito and Keiper invite us to join them in contemplating how the deeds of our forebears resonate with us today, and how our actions will echo into the lives of those who follow us.

The work is constituted by 108 six-inch concrete cubes arranged in a line the length of a B-29 bomber pointing both at the cemetery across Trenton Avenue and towards Hiroshima, as well as a soundscape that evokes the Midvale Steel Works. The concrete of the cubes suggests the substance of tombs, structures used to contain nuclear waste and nuclear accident sites such as Chernobyl, as well as bunkers and bomb shelters.

Each cube entombs a roll of 35mm film which Ito exposed using materials and methodology that represent his inherited irradiated trauma originating from what his grandfather experienced in Hiroshima, including hair, rainwater and sunlight. The images Ito captured on the film within the cubes are known only to him and could only be revealed by destroying the cubes.

The soundscape portraying Midvale Steel, once located down the Delaware River in the Nicetown neighborhood of Philadelphia, acknowledges the work of Keiper’s grandfather, an engineer who worked as a radiologist at Midvale, which provided key elements of both the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the device tested in New Mexico for the Trinity Test on July 16, 1945.

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Across their work together, Ito and Keiper remind us of the past, even as they insist on the ongoing threat posed by nuclear weaponry. They aspire for their work and their collaboration to embody the possibility of peace for the future, despite the weight of history and conflict.

Kei Ito is a visual artist who primarily works with camera-less photography and installation art. Ito’s work addresses issues of deep intergenerational loss and connections as he explores the materiality and experimental processes of photography, visualizing the invisible: radiation, memory and life/death. His work, rooted in the trauma and legacy passed down from his late grandfather – a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, meditates on the complexity of his identity and heritage through examining the past and current threats of nuclear disaster and his present status as an US-immigrant. Ito received his BFA from Rochester Institute Technology in 2014 and MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2016. He currently teaches at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in NYC.

Andrew Paul Keiper is an artist who works in sound and installation whose art explores history, loss and listening. Interested in eroding the boundaries between sound art, experimental music and sound design, his work dances between these categories while imagining moments and places lost to time. Keiper is fascinated by the meaning of sounds we take for granted, and how listening is itself a political action. Born and raised in Central New Jersey, Keiper attended Rutgers University for his BFA, later receiving an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland. Keiper is faculty at MICA, where he teaches in the Animation and Film & Video programs.


Ito and Keiper invite you to join them on July 16, 2021 (the anniversary of the Trinity Test) for an artist talk and a participatory performance to complete the piece, by adding rusted steel squares to the tops of the cubes.

Location —
Backyard of ArtYard's Trenton Avenue Residency, at 50 Trenton Avenue, Frenchtown, NJ.
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