‘Tag’ honors internees

by Staff

John Anderson, Entertainment Editor
John Anderson, Entertainment Editor

The University Art Gallery was alive with activity Friday night. Drums could be heard from as far away as Parking Structure 4 as the School of Art, Design and Art History opened former wood-working professor Wendy Maruyama’s “The Tag Project / Executive Order 9066.”

The exhibition is a memorial to the human rights abuses visited on the Japanese-American community during World War II. Concerned about potential spies living in the U.S., President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, ordering Japanese Americans to be rounded up and relocated to internment camps. After a bit of study, Maruyama decided to begin “The Tag Project” to honor and remember the Americans whose rights were infringed upon during this time.

The Japanese drum group San Diego Taiko opened the evening with a traditional drum performance. After a welcome from the director of the gallery, Maruyama gave a brief speech before leading the large crowd into the exhibit.

Maruyama cites everything from folded origami cranes she saw at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial to photos of internees as her inspiration for the project. Ultimately, ignorance of the event from the American people seems to have pushed her on; she says on her website: “To this day it shocks me to still run into fellow Americans who had no clue that this had happened.”

The centerpieces of the exhibition are huge collections of tags, issued to Japanese Americans to designate them a camp to report to. All 120,000 tags have been painstakingly recreated and strung together to form eerie chandelier-like bundles. Each camp is represented in unique groups, which are hung in a sparse, white-walled gallery. The lighting and minimalist nature of the gallery combined with the imposing hanging figures forces wandering eyes onto the masses of tags, making them impossible to ignore. Maruyama invited several Japanese Americans who lived in the internment camps to the opening, where they stood with the exhibits, answering questions and talking about their experiences.

Throughout the rest of the gallery are artistic representations of the pain inflicted by Executive Order 9066. Movable boxes constructed from a wide variety of woods and materials hang on the walls, providing haunting perspectives on the camps themselves as well as the impact the experience had on the people interred there.

Behind a curtain in a corner of the gallery, a projector plays a video showing a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of “The Tag Project.” Recreating every tag is no small task, so Maruyama enlisted many people to help her put the project together. Providing a video detailing how she completed the project is satisfying for those interested in the artistic process and reflects that Maruyama is still a teacher at heart.

The exhibit will remain in the University Art Gallery until May 3, when it embarks on a tour that will take “The Tag Project” across the country. Maruyama will give a special lecture at 7 p.m. on April 16 at Art North room 412. The University Art Gallery is open from 12 to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday and Saturday.

John Anderson, Entertainment Editor
John Anderson, Entertainment Editor
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