During the course of the global pandemic, from 2020 to 2021 there were roughly 1300 cancelled firework festivals throughout Japan. That’s according to Sayaka Shimada, a visual artist who often incorporates pyrotechnics as a means of interpreting culture and history. Her latest installation at Haneda Airport, a gateway to Japan, is a reconstruction of those festivals using time, location and visual data condensed into a visual and digital artwork.
Shimada actually reenacted the cancelled fireworks shows, capturing footage and incorporating it into her video. Tubes used to launch the fireworks make up part of the installation.
Fireworks are a summer tradition in Japan that bring hundreds of thousands of people together. Historically, they’re also significant in that roughly 280 years ago the tradition began as a way to ward off epidemics. Japan had endured great suffering that year from starvation, largely due to an epidemic of cholera. And it’s believed that the fireworks festival was intended to memorialize victims and pray for an end to the epidemic.
Having been cancelled so many times now, Shimada’s installation titled “Fireworks for Another World That Never Came,” helps us to remember the feelings we’ve somehow left behind in the last few years. The artworks is part of Culture Gate, an initiative to convert Japan’s airports, which remain largely unused due to subdued travel, into temporary museums.