Siege of Cranes

Engendered from the rich cultural heritage of the Japanese, Siege of Cranes is an installation whose purpose and message—much like the folds of the origami that created it—is layered and complex. Composed of one-thousand cranes and over five-hundred individual LED lights, the installation is the preamble to the exhibition When The Emperor Was Divine—honoring Julie Otsuka’s eponymous novelRepresenting peace, honor, fidelity and longevity, the crane is a national treasure of Japan, appearing in art, literature, and folklore. Although not expressly featured, mentioned or even alluded to in the book, the crane symbolizes the spirit of reconciliation with both the Japanese-American population and victims of the aftermath of World War II. Folding one thousand origami cranes (senbazuru)has thus become a symbol for harmony and peace. A siege of cranes is the term for a group of these large birds; a siege of paper cranes inverts the usual military reference, further linking the installation with its peaceful intent. Thus, coalescing these layered programs and rich symbology, Siege of Cranes  was created through the collective effort of dozens of students, library patrons, volunteers, administrators and staff who willingly donated their time and enthusiasm to the creation of a unique installation that brings light to a darkened space, and by extension, serving as a powerful reminder that perseverance and collaboration does indeed conquer all.


Project Type


Ithaca, New York, 14850, United States

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  • Cornell University