On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued executive order 9066 authorizing the forced removal of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants to concentration camps for the duration of World War II. While various cases appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court during this period, the Court upheld the order, the camps remained, and justice was denied. In 1976, President Gerald Ford formally repealed the executive order and apologized for the past actions: “I call upon the American people to affirm with me this American Promise—that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.”
Between 1999 and 2014, Emily Hanako Momohara traveled to several of the former sites of incarceration, photographing the visual remains of the wartime imprisonment infrastructure: concrete steps, barbed wire fences, barrack style cots, disintegrating wood posts, and the desolate, exposed desert landscapes where people were subjected to extreme heat and cold. Reviewing these photographs in light of the present moment, Momohara re-photographed her original images, reframing and reflecting on the parallels between the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans and the incarceration of migrants and the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. “This is only relevant if we do something with it,” the artist explains. “If we don’t, then it is in the past. It is only relevant if we can look at it and see that these mistakes were made before and we don’t need to make them again.” As the rallying cry of “Never Again is Now” and the apologies of presidents past are forgotten in moments of fear and perceived vulnerability, these photographs serve as potent visual reminders, warnings to not repeat the mistakes of the past.
What you can do to help:
· Join the letter campaign to Congress to stop the Flores protections from being removed.
· Sign the petition to close the camps and get others to sign.
· Donate to lawyers who are representing the immigrants and help pay bail for detainees.
This exhibition was organized on the occasion of the 2019 Louisville Photo Biennial, which takes place September 20 – November 10, featuring photography exhibitions – spanning traditional to contemporary, local to global work – at museums, galleries, universities, and cultural institutions throughout Louisville Metro, Southern Indiana, and surrounding communities. Learn more here.