In the wake of the earthquakes and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, overwhelming images of intense devastation emerged in media coverage. Critics aptly called the visuals psychedelic, explicit, otherworldly, and heart-breaking. Visions of such power and relentless destruction are horrifically potent, yet through over-exposure, the images threatened to alienate and desensitize viewers to the physical, psychological, and social destruction these “natural” disasters have on the lives and communities they impact .

What are the depths and breadths of the gulf between observation and experience? How can the observed, the visualized, and the disseminated, become modalities for action? For artists and designers who work with images daily the question of the image and it’s impact on our social and physical environment is one we are continually faced with. As to is the question of agency.  How as artists and designers can we have an impact on the social and the physical?


We at GA Collaborative have questioned how designers can best effect change. As a non-profit design firm working with underrepresented communities in the domestically and internationally, we recognize the need to reconcile seemingly disparate cultures and worldviews. Reciprocity is borne not out of observation alone, but through participation in these multiple worlds in tangible ways - action.

In response to the devastation caused by the March 11th tsunami and the breakdown in infrastructure it precipitated in the days after we looked for ways to take action within the realm of the image. With help from 35 artists, Studio X (a division of Columbia University's’ Graduate School of Architecture,Planning and Publication), Midstate Printing, and many other partners (see below) we were able create Art/Relief and exhibition and auction to raise funds for relief and  rebuilding efforts in Japan, and find paths to design agency. 100% of the proceeds from the exhibition and auction were donated to the Japan Society, who allocated funding to organizations that addressed short, medium, and long term needs for the people  and communities affected by the March 11th Tsunami.



In developing the Art/Relief exhibition and auction, we asked both emerging and established artist in the New York area and beyond to contribute their work. Artist and designers from various backgrounds contributed original pieces in a variety of media: sculpture, music, photography, printmaking, paintings, video, books, food, and designed objects. The work represents the collective efforts of artists working to engage the public through different modes of production. Each piece was donated to the Art/Relief exhibition and auction, with many of the artist on hand at the exhibition to speak with visitors and share their insights into how each piece was produced. We had a great turnout of talented artists. All are listed here.  Each name is linked to the artists website or gallery.




In Art/Relief, we harness the power of the constructed visual experience – the fantastic, the surreal, the imagined, and the documented – as artifacts of action. The Art/Relief exhibition and auction was organized to benefit the Japan Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund, but the event also encompassed a larger idea about the ability of the visual experience to effect the actions of communities, organizations and governments . The result was the participation 35 artists and designers who, through their work, have found a way to bring one community together, to provide relief to communities a world apart.

The Art/Relief exhibition + auction was a one-day event. In preparation we produced digital and printed versions of the exhibition catalogue to both document the pieces presented and to aid bidders in understanding the stories behind each. With many of the pieces produced specifically for this event and therefore could not be photographed ahead of time, the catalogue served as a guide to potential bidders of the dimensions and materials of each piece and explained the work of each artist  - a textural enticement as proxy for the image. The catalogue was also used to inform the arts, humanitarian, design, and NGO communities about the event and open up new paths to efficacy for artists and designers.




  • New York, New York, USA


  • Design: 03 + 04.2011
  • Exhibition: 30. 04. 2011


  • Exhibition
  • Auction
  • Publication
  • Fundraiser


  • Exhibition:
  • Publication: 4" X 9"


  • Photography
  • Video
  • Prints
  • Sculpture
  • Paintings
  • Drawings
  • Music
  • Books
  • Weavings
  • Wearables


  • N/A




  • Michael Leighton Beaman
  • Zaneta Hong
  • James Setzler
  • Yutaka Sho
  • Sunmin Whang



  • Japan Society





  • Studio X | Columbia University, GSAPP, New York, NY, USA


  • GA Collaborative


  • GA Collaborative