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Bikini Lines

Written by // Christian Forestell

…or how to create the world’s largest painting

Bikini Lines is a proposal to create the world’s largest painting, viewable in Google Earth, on an historically significant & sublimely remote Pacific Island. Using the Runit Island Cactus Dome as a canvas – the dome built to contain radioactive debris from Bikini & surrounding atolls – we wish to create a new type of highly participatory, collaborative & micro-financed media for the benefit of children orphaned in the March 2011 Japanese disasters. 

By challenging the way media is created we can rewrite the mode & reasoning behind it’s distribution. In short, Bikini Lines is Art, Adventure, Collaboration and Documentation. 

Architects, and even almost architects, like to use the word “organic” in highly inappropriate places, so please excuse me when I say the inspiration for Bikini Lines was an organic process. As a long time admirer of the world’s esoteric places – did you know that the catacombs running under Odessa have a greater combined distance than a trip from New York to Houston? – I was intimately familiar with the Cactus Dome. Well, as intimately familiar as one man can be with a concrete dome built by the American military between 1977-80 to contain a radioactive slurry of earth taken from Bikini & surrounding atolls. 

So after experiencing the most recent series of earthquakes to rewrite Japanese history in my simple wooden home perched tenuously on a hillside, the desire to help out in any way I could was immediate and inspiration came within days of the first waves of nuclear radiation paranoia that spread through Tokyo, some 280+km from the problematic Dai-ichi reactor. In hindsight I am a bit ashamed of my flippant Canadian behaviour, which stood in stark contrast to my American friend’s reactions, who having experienced cold war paranoia held an entirely different view on the subject. I was untainted by propaganda, and journalists, scaremongering lovers having no other benchmark with which to compare the potential outcome of the situation, made broad and bold claims of danger to bolster sales. For me, though, the storied history of Runit Island was a personal comparative benchmark, and I began thinking of a way to document the Cactus Dome in an allegorical way that might help to relieve some domestic fears. It was not long before I figured that creating a new path for the Cactus Dome was more appropriate and inspirational for a people who needed reprieve, a notion shared by the Marshallese Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Jiba Kabua. Final permission to run the project came in December 2011 after Mr. Kabua was able to speak with the island elders who have a de facto claim on all that happens in the far flung Enewetak Atoll. They were delighted, as expected, but formalities take time. With a handshake and promise of camera time, that great motivator, the elders gave the green light. I began team building.

In a sense, collaborative systems in online media are all that I know, so the project took a decidedly CGM (consumer generated media) turn very quickly once permission was given. Within a month we had our beta web page up & were beginning to expand on the organic (sorry!) nature of the project. The cliched notion of “by people, for people” was less mantra than necessity, as we knew that our only options to finance the project would be by crowd sourced micro-financing. To that end, we wanted to promote a project that would allow almost anybody to be involved in some way or another for a reasonable price & more than reasonable incentive, and ultimately decided that artists, photographers, videographers and writers would have a chance to join us on the island as official documentarians if they win a free-to-enter online contest. If you’re reading this between February and July, 2012, the contest is open, and full details can be found at www.bikinilines.net

While we are keen on painting the dome as first priority, the project also includes official photography, writing and videography efforts with regards to creating an accompanying, feature length documentary film. We believe in the inherent tension, excitement & drama of 20+ relative strangers living on a desert island for a month, working together to build a monument out of (literal) ashes. Most importantly, 100% of the documentary broadcast profits & individual sales will be donated to the Ashinaga Foundation, which helps children orphaned in natural disasters. And in this way I can satisfy that underlying desire to help out. 

The only problem, at this point, is that we are simply organizing the project. We approached F8 in that we wanted to reach out to some of the world’s best photographers to solicit proposals to become our official on-site photographer, but quite frankly, we need your financial help as well. If you have as little as $5 to spare, we’d certainly love to claim you as an official project contributor. Donations are made easily via IndieGoGo, links of which can be found from our webpage. Anybody who donates will have the option of having their name uploaded to a central site that will be geotagged in Google Maps. This means that, if you contributed, you can open up Google Maps, find the Cactus Dome, click a link & show your family & friends what you were part of, what you helped create. Let’s call it pocket change pride, a digital heirloom.

Through great collaboration we can make a difference. Help us create & document a painting viewable in Google Earth for the benefit of Fukushima orphans. Help us create a new type of participatory media where you’re the star.

Christian Forestell, Executive Producer, Bikini Lines

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