Promethean Leaps

Location: at Turn Another Round
Place: Sendai, Japan
Date: 2022
Context: [EN] [日本語]
Installation view: Turn Another Round, 2022.

Promethean Leaps is part of ongoing audiovisual research on the utilization of models as means of representing, communicating, commemorating, as well as predicting catastrophic events. Catastrophe models occur as reconstructions of past, exemplifications of present or predictions of future events. They are utilized in museums to impart historical events and—in different shape—by reinsurance companies to conduct risk evaluation of insurance portfolios.
The literal ‘down-turning’ that the term ‘catastrophe’ connotes potentially collapses the established hierarchies of social order and disrupts the flow and operability of production and trade. Yet, it also bears the potential to disrupt and shift a state of inequality. Predictive catastrophe models, used in economics, governance and insurance, however, tend to idealize and thereby stabilize the status quo, on which their predictions are based.
The project poses the question of how these different types of models (the etymological root of ‘model’ being measure) are used to calculate and make measurable the incalculable and immeasurable, implicated by the term ‘catastrophe’. Further, starting from observations in Japan in the years after the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing accident at the Fukushima power plant, the role that catastrophe modeling plays in the context of technical and economical development as well as its impact on the catastrophic side effects of these developments is investigated.
Juxtaposing images and voices compiled from a broad range of sources, including archival materials and recordings taken on site in Japan, Promethean Leaps draws a connection between two instances of risk conception and their respective locations:

  1. The safety culture concomitant with the gradual establishment of nuclear power technology in post-war Japan that would not suffice to prevent, but rather facilitate, the accident at the Fukushima power plant in March 2011.
  2. The development of Tokyo Disneyland as a realm of controlled virtual adventure and an intense accumulation of financial risk.

How do these locations’ reconstructed past and modeled virtual catastrophes inscribe themselves into the basis of their calculation, that is the physical world and the biographies of the people inhabiting it? What are potential communal strategies of defying the contingently catastrophic consequences of risk-led governance and economy?
Hazards, latently embedded in the environmental conglomerate of recurring nature phenomena and the quasi-virtual global chains of extraction, production and distribution, might be charted and monetized as risk by the insurance and corresponding catastrophe modeling industries. Yet, the knowledge obtained is largely retained as intellectual property within these companies and is rarely accessible to governments, businesses, or individual households. What has been detected and quantified in actuarial models remains uncertain for those dwelling next to hazardous industrial sites, whose exposure may well be a prerequisite factor in insurance's risk equations.
Reading these models’ visualizations and maps transversely may reveal a community’s individual exposure to hazards that emerge from the entanglements of the infrastructures of trade and industry permeating their surroundings, perturbed by climate change-induced extreme weather events.


「catastrophecatastropheは「大災害」を意味し、語源はkata(下)とstrephein(回す)に由来する。 原義はギリシャ語のkatastrophe(ひっくり返すこと)」という言葉が意味する文字通りの「下降」は、社会秩序の確立された階層を崩壊させ、生産と取引の流れと操作性を混乱させる可能性があります。しかし、それは不平等な状態を破壊し転換させる可能性も孕んでいます。 また一方で、経済学、ガバナンス(統治)、保険で用いられる災害予測モデルは、その予測の根拠となる現状を理想化し、それにより安定化させる傾向があるのです。

  1. 戦後日本において原子力発電技術が徐々に確立されていく中で、徐々に定着していた安全文化は、2011年3月に起きた福島原発の事故を防ぐどころか、むしろ事故を促進させてしまったことについて。
  2. 管理された仮想冒険の世界としての東京ディズニーランドの開発と、金融リスクの集中的な集積について。

これらのモデルの可視化と図を横断的に読み解くことで、気候変動に起因する異常気象の影響を受け、周囲に張り巡らされた貿易・産業インフラのもつれから生じる危険に地域社会における個々人が晒されていることが明らかになるでしょうtranslation provided by Gallery Turn Another Round.

Control Room (Sendai edit), HD-video (9:28 min).
Architecture of Reassurance (VUCA), inkjet-print, modified shelve, furniture fall prevention tension rods (detail view).
Promethean Leaps (Sendai edit), HD-video (31:34 min).
Architecture of Reassurance (BCM), inkjet-print, modified shelve, furniture fall prevention tension rods (detail view).

Supported by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe, the Sendai Cultural Foundation and the Potsdam Graduate School.