Electric power wires – a neighborhood boon or blight? That was the question artist Eiji Sumi was trying to ask when he installed “Densen/Plus a” at Koi Art Gallery in Bangkok last month. The installation featured a mix of still life paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography that created an electrifying space within the gallery. And indeed, in Japan and other countries there have recently been calls to bury underground the electrical lines that cloud skylines and disrupt otherwise clear views. In Japan especially – a nation prone to earthquakes and falling cable lines, one wonders why the task hasn’t been completed already.
As it turns out, the “No Wire Movement” has slowly been progressing throughout Japan. But not only does the infrastructure project come with a hefty price tag, but some argue that it’s actually better to keep them within reach, instead of burying them in hard-to-reach places. When the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck Japan in 1995, power was restored relatively quickly because most electric poles remained standing and it was easy to patch the wires back together. But if the wires had been buried under rubble it could have taken much longer to dig them out and then repair them, potentially stifling the recovery.
Visitors will undoubtedly be turned off by the ubiquitous cables that are almost impossible to hide from. But for those who have spent many years in Japan, this may not be the case. For me personally, electric power wires have become so engrained in my psyche that I find them rather nostalgic, if not downright comforting. What do you think? To bury or not to bury?
(thanks for the tip Masako!)