2011-03-11 05:46:24 UTC

On March 11th, 2011 at 5:45:24 UTC the 9.1 magnitude Tōhoku megathust earthquake shook Japan. I experienced this earthquake first hand in the basement of a skyscraper in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo.

This artwork is about what it felt like to emotionally process one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in human history. The series of  paintings, Tōhoku
 2011-03-11 05:46:24 UTC, is based on my own personal memory guided by 3D model views and live animations of the seismic data.  I reconnected with the 5 minute event on canvas through the psychological and physical space of gestural painting.  

Left: Tōhoku I 2011-03-11 05:46:24 UTC Acrylic on Canvas 48 x 48 inches
Right: Tōhoku III 2011-03-11 05:46:24 UTC Acrylic on Canvas 48 x 48 inches 

This process started from my own direct observation based on what my body and mind were expereincing at the time of the earthquake.  The following lists the oveview of how I went from experience to artwork over the course of five years.

The process...

1. Having coffee in Sinjuku with some family. Notice the time on the clock. This was a Japanes sytle pour over coffee that I had just sat down with and never drank.

2. These are some of the sounds I rememberd during the shaking...the eerie - yet friendly earthquake warning chimes

3. This was a photo taken after the initial earthquake and somewhere between aftershocks, my family noticed my eyes had become more blue....they had temporarily changed colors from hazel green.  

4. A few seconds before each aftershock (which were happening for days) the Japanese phones make this sound and show this warning.....


5. Sound seemed like a natural place to start with this experiment as it was a large part of my memory for the event. I was also curious to know if there was any data, seismic data for the event and I was able to identify a seismic sensor located at the Shinjuku, Japan Station that had strong-motion virtual data at the Latitude & Longitude: 35.7107, 139.6859. It was for the Tohoku earthquake and was just what I needed. 

6. It was availble in ASCII format: 

7. The data was recorded at 100 Hz per second and was divided into NS, EW, and UD (North -South, East-West and Up-Down) for each HZ I had three points in space - attached to time. This file had five minutes of shaking.... terrifying-- 30K points for each direction =  90K points. 

8. Sticking with my initial sound idea - i threw the Up/Down data into the program Max/MSP and generated a simpe tone--- it was weird and incredibly creepy and would probably make Philip Glass scared.  

9.  The sound tests were interesting but were not quite what I was looking for. I needed something that I could understand and connect with the motion through. I decided that I would animated a camera and look at the motion as it is received through an object, a simple sphere. This is the first test of the five minutes of shaking in 3d - I plugged all the x,y,z coordinates into Max/MSP and animated a simple sphere. 

My eyes changed from hazel green to dark blue for a few hours after the event— in fear.

What is that loud clanking sound coming from the building above — that is the sound of the beams  hitting each other.

During the first aftershook, I laid down on the ground near a large tree in the park— to be part of the shaking ground, not separate from it.

I wanted to keep looking at the sky— it was not moving.