In the case of Gaku Tsutaja, an examination of larger cultural and historical trauma, such as the use of nuclear weapons in Japan during World War II and its aftermath in the post-war period, led to her exploration of personal connections to those events. For Sherrill Roland, the trauma of being wrongfully incarcerated has led to a wider investigation of the far-reaching issues facing individuals who have experienced imprisonment.
In A Trip to the Moon Tsutaja creates fictional narrative structures based on actual historical events through which she exposes the implications of imbedded issues of race, ideology, ethnicity, class, and politics. Using various media, including works on paper, video, and sculptural installations, Tsutaja presents allegorical tales that mediate between differing versions of historical narratives. Through surrealistic tales that feature animals and human-animal hybrid protagonists, she portrays the issues of development and use of atomic weapons during and after World War II; Japanese internment camps; and Japan’s creation of post-war infrastructure and potentially catastrophic use of nuclear energy.
Inertia looks at the varying social and political issues surrounding incarceration, through the lens of Roland’s own experience with the justice system. Falsely accused and convicted of a crime, Roland served ten months at the Central Detention Facility in Washington, DC. Although he was eventually exonerated, the experience changed him profoundly and led him to re-think his relationship to making art. Out of that experience Roland developed The Jumpsuit Project, an ongoing social practice work in which he engages visitors in conversations about incarceration, generating safe spaces to process, question, and discuss aspects of justice involvement. Through The Jumpsuit Project and other related works, he further encourages viewers to address their own prejudices towards those who are or have been incarcerated.
Gaku Tsutaja was born in Tokyo, Japan, and currently lives and works in Queens, NY. In 1999, Tsutaja obtained a BFA with honors from Tokyo Zokei University of Art and Design, and moved to Fukuoka to participate in the Center for Contemporary Art Kitakyusyu as a research fellow. Tsutaja moved to New York in 2006 and received an MFA from SUNY Purchase in 2018. Her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions in the US and internationally.
Sherrill Roland was born in Asheville, NC, and received both his BFA in Design and MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has shared the The Jumpsuit Project around the country through speaking and performance engagements at numerous institutions, including Georgetown University, the University of Michigan Law School, and Princeton University. His work has been exhibited most recently at ARTSpace Raleigh; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; LACE: Los Angeles; and the Studio Museum of Harlem. He was recently awarded the Post-MFA Fellowship in the Documentary Arts at the Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University in Durham, NC.