As standalone murals, these are eye-grabbing enough, but they achieve three-dimensional depth when you click on the QR codes embedded in each image.
Most of the augmented reality applications I have seen over the past several years are little more than visual gimmicks. But this one — created by filmmaker and creative director Tani Ikeda — convinced me of the technology’s potential.
Once the feature opens in Instagram, point your phone at the mural and the painted faces become animated, as farmers Tosh Ito, Rae Matsuoka Takekawa and Mitsuko Hashiguchi tell their stories in one-minute clips taken from the oral histories. At the same time, animated plants unfurl, swoops of color swish by and cranes take flight. And in yet another layer, historic photos of local farms from the era are superimposed on the mural. It’s quite effective and affecting.
The roof of the farmhouse is asymmetrical, which Kumata said she intended to convey “something off or not quite settled,” because there is still so much unresolved about this history, so much lingering anti-Asian sentiment.
“Why don’t later generations know these stories?” She asked the question, then shared a personal insight: Both of her parents were born in the Minidoka Relocation Camp in Idaho. “My parents were too young to remember, my grandparents didn’t talk about it, and I didn’t know enough to ask,” Kumata said. After being punished because they were seen as “different,” many Japanese American families emphasized blending in over stirring up bad memories.
As we mark the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 this month, Kumata hopes to facilitate more story sharing. On Feb. 19 at noon, BAM will host a virtual Day of Remembrance event, a conversation with Kumata, Tani Ikeda, Densho founding director Tom Ikeda and descendants of the Bellevue farmers featured in the artwork. They’ll talk about the history and legacy of Japanese incarceration, as well as the creation of the farmhouse mural, which Kumata says is “a container for these stories of strength and resilience.”