A virtual pilgrimage to Tule Lake Internment Camp
As a visual artist I grew up with a camp experience; that is, "the camps" were a mysterious element of my parents' lives, only referred to sporadically and tersely. However, it was only after their deaths that I recognized the magnitude of the internment on their lives.
This piece of digital work is an artistic expression of what I have perceived and experienced during my discovery of an ignominous past, from visiting the actual site, from conversations with former internees, from research. It illumines the past experience of the internees' lives from the perspective of their offspring; hence this is not a purely objective expression.
Sharing this personal journey is a way of preserving their memory, sharing history.
This web site tours the remains of one of ten Japanese internment camps created during World War II. Over 110,000 people of Japanese descent of all ages were ordered by "military necessity" to suddenly leave their homes and businesses and report to centers for unknown destinations and for an unknown length of time, bringing only what they could carry in their hands.
Over sixty percent were American citizens; none were guilty of any crime except being of Japanese ethnicity. An atmosphere of wartime hysteria, economic jealousy and racial bigotry pervaded the time.
The camps were placed in desolate areas of the west and midwest. Between 15,000 and 18,000 people lived in this camp during its existence from May 1942 to March 1946. The war in the Pacific ended in August 1945.
This virtual pilgrimage explores what is left of the physical site after more than 50 years since its last inhabitants departed. There has been little or no maintenance, and few have spoken of it since.
Its obscurity in American history speaks much about the attitudes of both the US government as well as the internees' experience.
The quotes cited are taken from different internees and their children. They reflect the kinds of thinking and memory born of a group experience. The images are from photographs taken during the war by the government or on a pilgrimage to Tule Lake camp site in 1998.
This is a work in progress.