Japanese Artist to Commemorate ‘Comfort Women’

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Yoshiko Shimada, “Becoming a Statue of a Japanese Comfort Woman” (2012) outside the Embassy of Japan in London.

GLENDALE — The trailblazing Japanese artist Yoshiko Shimada will perform in Glendale’s Central Park, 201 E. Colorado St., at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18, in conjunction with the transnational feminist-artist collective Tomorrow Girls Troop.

The artists are collaborating to pay tribute to “comfort women,” the hundreds of thousands of women who were forced into sexual slavery by Imperial Japan between 1932 and 1945, as well as to bring awareness to contemporary issues surrounding war and sexual violence worldwide while condemning government officials who refuse to recognize these crimes.

As reported in The New York Times in November 2017, the mayor of Osaka declared that he would cut ties with the city of San Francisco, where a comfort women memorial was erected. The commemoration of comfort women has also been a controversial topic among East Asian countries, particularly in diplomatic relations between South Korea and Japan.

According to Shimada, as politicians bicker and broker deals that often fail to acknowledge how these women were exploited as instruments of the Japanese imperial war machine, the legacies of the victims are at risk of being invisibilized or distorted.

Shimada will reprise her performance “Becoming a Statue of a Japanese Comfort Woman,” which honors the Japanese comfort women whose tragic personal histories are often ignored by their own country. Her practice explores Japanese history, nationalism, and wartime violence.

Tomorrow Girls Troop will debut a new performance that connects the plight of comfort women and the current reckoning with sexual harassment. The group tackles issues of gender inequality in Japan and Korea by creating artwork that utilizes tropes from popular culture and mass media to highlight institutionalized sexism. Recently, they successfully petitioned with lobbying groups in Japan to amend laws pertaining to sexual assault and rape.

The performances will take place at the Comfort Women Memorial in Central Park. The bronze statue of a young girl was erected in 2013, and is among several memorials that have been installed at numerous international sites, including the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, China, Germany, Australia, and the U.S.

Los Angeles-based Korean American artist Yong Soon Min will introduce Shimada and Tomorrow Girls Troop.

Parking is free for 90 minutes at Market Place Parking Structure, located at 120 S. Maryland Ave. (at Harvard).

Members of Tomorrow Girls Troop in front of the Diet building in Tokyo.

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