Urban, Natural, Human – architecture & environment in Japanese moving image





architecture & environment in Japanese moving image

– a forthcoming Day for Night project – 





Much of Day for Night’s work early this year (and over the last two years) has been focused on bringing together our Japan project, “Urban, Natural, Human”, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, and as such, Day for Night’s two directors Sonali and Chonpel have been in Japan since early February. While no formal lockdown came into effect until the state of emergency in various Japanese urban centres this week, disruption to daily life was abundantly apparent as soon as we arrived back in Tokyo. Colleagues were talking about audiences’ extreme reluctance to venture into venues and cinemas were already voluntarily closing. We were also intending to visit a couple of exhibitions and an arts festival as the last stage of our research, but like others, we did not feel it was safe to do so, and it was clear that this was a sign of more to come in Japan and beyond.

With the Tokyo Olympics now postponed until 2021, the Day for Night team is reshaping this project, and what was to be our main focus this year. While lockdowns are inevitably disrupting everyone’s daily lives in ways we could never have imagined pre-COVID-19, we must all adapt accordingly, with safety at the forefront of our thinking and actions.

The central premise of our “Urban, Natural, Human” project was to explore the relationship between architecture and the environment, the human and the non-human entity, referencing the past and looking to the future of cities, the environment and beyond. In light of COVID-19, the arts face a critical time ahead, not least economically, but equally in terms of isolation, human interaction and the collective viewing experience. We’ve all been reflecting on this profoundly in rethinking this project, and ultimately considering how we shift to a state of recovery and regeneration in the future – post-isolation, post-lockdown, post-COVD-19. We look forward to sharing more of our ideas around this project and plans to present it later this year and into the year of the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, which will no doubt take on greater significance than ever for global recovery and renewal.
August 2020 sees the 75th anniversary of the devastation of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bombs. March 2021 will see the 10th anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that ravaged northern Japan and the ensuing Fukushima nuclear disaster. “Urban, Natural, Human” will reflect on such catastrophes and in light of the current global pandemic that will no doubt change our lives irrevocably, we hope this project can serve as a form of recovery to look towards a better future for ourselves as humans, our interaction with space, the built and natural environments and the world around us, against the backdrop of the lead up to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.


Read on for more on our work on this project so far…

Japan is a nation of contrasts, a country of sprawling urban metropolises alongside pristine natural landscapes. While Japanese art, architectural and design traditions have often been infused with notions of harmony and tranquillity, with a fusion of aesthetics and function, in sharp contrast, the country has frequently been subjected to natural phenomena on one hand – tsunamis, typhoons, earthquakes, and man-made destruction on the other. The devastation of war, the experience of atomic warfare, natural and man-made catastrophes, and the lingering nuclear question have all left indelible imprints on the Japanese psyche and been etched into the memory of the nation.

As Japan prepares to host the now rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, the coming months and year ahead will inevitably lead to a phase of reflection in which to consider the relationship between human activity, space, buildings and the environment around us.

In exploring Japan as a nation of many contrasts and one that has been subjected to the ravages of war and catastrophe, this project will consider the significant contributions made by Japanese creators to the fields of art, architecture and cinema, and artistic responses to devastation, renewal and regeneration, not least in light of this summer’s 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,  next year’s 10th anniversary of the devastating Tohuku earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing Fukushima nuclear disaster, and now in 2020, the journey to surmounting the global impact of COVID-19 and recovery in the lead up to next year’s Tokyo Olympics which will undoubtedly take on new meaning and significance in a global context.

Featuring archival works, lesser-known works of documentary, underground movements and artists’ moving image, many not seen in the UK before, the project takes as its key focus explorations into the built and natural environments framed through historical, current and future contexts – the impact of war, post-war regeneration, natural and man-made catastrophes, reconstruction and renewal, urban and rural development, the urban experience and the future of cities, while pointing to broader discourses concerning our place as humans in a rapidly changing world.


“Urban, Natural, Human” is forms part of our Aperture 2020-2021 programme.