The International Shadows Project is a changing annual exhibition of art and performance dedicated to the themes of nuclear disarmament and world peace. The main theme is the Shadow.

When the atomic bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people within 300 meters of the hypocenters were instantly vaporized by the intense heat, leaving nothing behind but faint "shadows" on nearby walls, pavement, and other stone and concrete surfaces that weren't vaporized with them. Survivors traced these shadows with chalk, and the tracings have become a symbol for state terrorism and nuclear annihilation.

Some shadows projects have involved nothing more than people going around their cities outlining each other with chalk or paint on Hiroshima Day, August 6. They have often done this near dawn so that when large numbers of people come out on the streets they witness the reminder of the past atrocities, and a warning against the danger of further construction and keeping of nuclear weapons.

Of Shadows Project Shows, which involve mail art as well as shadowing, the one that took place in 1988 in Hiroshima has remained the most important. Part of its importance is that it took place in Hiroshima itself. But also because it was international not only in its accepting work from around the world, but also because it was organized internationally, with Mayumi Handa and Shozo Shimomoto (Japan), Ruggero Maggi (Italy), John Held, Jr. (U.S.A), and Serge Segai (U.S.S.R.) playing major roles in organizing the project.

For this project, I originally thought I'd begin with photos of burn victims, corpses floating in the Otta River, the flattened city with its shadows, melted railroad tracks, etc. But this seemed a bit like pornography of violence, and our aim is peace. So I have simply presented a few photos from the 1988 event. These have no captions. The first shows some of the shadowers in the Peace Park with Shadows they'd painted earlier in the morning. The next three are of people meditating and praying during the period of remembrance around 9:15 a.m. The last returns to the shadows painted in the park.

-Karl Young


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