Nuclear Culture Research Symposium

Blackwater Estuary, Burnham on Crouch and District Museum, UK
Blackwater Estuary, Burnham on Crouch and District Museum, UK

30th November & 1st December 2018
Goldsmiths University of London
MFA Curating Studio, Goldsmiths Art Department

Full documentation available here:
All the presentations were recorded and are available here:
Pieter Fannes Visual Report of the Symposium here:

The Nuclear Culture Research Symposium presents new artistic and curatorial practice based research in nuclear culture. The Symposium will investigate theoretical ideas and artistic practices concerned with radiological deep time from nuclear landscapes of energy, research, contamination, mining, testing and geological storage facilities. The session will focus on a forensic material analysis, rethinking nuclear spaces, the challenges of nuclear heritage, and the lived experience of nuclear environments.

The event will bring together new PhD researchers in nuclear culture from the Goldsmiths Art Department MARs doctoral research programme and members of the Nuclear Culture Research Group to form an intensive two days of sharing knowledge, mentoring and critical feedback. Academics and practitioners will be invited to feedback on doctoral research and artists’ presentations, helping to contextualise new research in the field in relation to existing practices, literature and public policy.

The Curating Studio includes several artworks: James Acord’s roundtable and photographs; Ele Carpenter’s embroidery of Paul Baran’s network diagrams; Erika Kobayashi’s Radium Calendar; and David Mabb’s Placards for Mutinous Submariners. Pieter Fannes will also draw the discussions to create a visual report of the day.

Curated by Ele Carpenter and Warren Harper.
The Nuclear Culture Research Symposium is generously supported by the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership. In partnership with Arts Catalyst, Art Action UK, MFA Curating and MARs Department of Art, Goldsmiths University of London.


Friday 30 November

10.15 Arrival and Coffee
10.30-10.45 Welcome from Ele Carpenter & Warren Harper
10.45-11.15 Round the room introductions

11.15-12.15 Paul Thompson, The Application of Nuclear Forensics to Nuclear Material. Respondent: Susan Schuppli.

12.15-12.30 Break

12.30-12.50 Sellafield Cultural Heritage, Philip Greatorex. Respondent: Bridget Kennedy.

12.50- 14.00 Lunch will be provided by Art Action UK, £6 donations will go to their Residency Programme.

14.00-15.30 Art Research presentations
Andy Weir, Deep Time Pazugoo. Respondent Philip Greatorex
Grit Ruhland, Uranium Mining in Europe. Respondent Nicola Triscott

15.30-15.45 Coffee break

15.45-17.15 Art Research presentations
Bridget Kennedy, Performing Sellafield. Respondent Alison Craighead
Warren Harper, the Nuclear Landscape of the Blackwater Estuary. Respondent Susan Schuppli
Jess Holtaway, Fukushima and Risk. Respondent Ayano Hattori

17.30-18.00 Plenary Chair: Robert Williams
Summary of the day and open discussion about future plans for the Nuclear Culture Research Group.

Saturday 1 December

10.30 -11.00 Leila Dawney, Laurie Griffiths, Jonty Tacon.
Fade to White: On Endurance, Care and the Micropolitics of Abandonment in a Decommissioning Nuclear Town.
Respondent Warren Harper

11.00-12.00 Uranium Weapons
David Burns in conversation with Wesley Perriman, Maralinga Tests
Yelena Popova, Her Name is Prometheus. Respondent: Gair Dunlop
Gabriella Hirst, Atomic Rose. Respondent: Ele Carpenter

12.00-12.15 Coffee break

12.15- 13.15 Deep Time Geologic memory
Hector Dyer, Thank You for Your Patience. Respondent Louise K Wilson
David Griffiths, Mol-Zine. Respondent: Ami Clarke
Helen Grove White, S-Air Residency. Respondent: Kaori Homma

13.15 – 14.30 Plenary and lunch. Lunch will be provided by Art Action UK, £6 donations will go to their Residency Programme.

Presenters & Respondents

David Burns is researching the effects of British nuclear weapons testing in Australia on sovereignty and extra-territoriality. Of particular interest is the spatial politics of the establishment of the Woomera Rocket Range. David is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths and coordinates the Media Studies curricula at the Royal College of Art School of Architecture.

Ami Clarke is an artist, curator, writer and founder of Banner Repeater. She works with the emergent behaviours of the complex protocols of platform capitalism, with a focus on the inter-dependencies between code and language. Her work ‘Error-Correction: an introduction to future diagrams’ explores the ontology that calculus brought to our being in the world via forms of mimetic media, and is influenced in part by the uranium ore that was gifted to her by an ex-lab technician at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, also the site of William Burroughs early Ranch School. She is currently working on a video in response to a recent visit (Sept 2018) to Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility, and sites within Fukushima prefecture.

Dr. Leila Dawney is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Brighton. Her presentation ‘Fade to white: On endurance, care and the micropolitics of abandonment in a decommissioning nuclear town’ will focus on the Lithuanian town of Visaginas, built in the Soviet era to house the workers of the nearby Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. When Lithuania applied for accession into the European Union in 2004, a condition of its membership was the decommissioning of the Ignalina plant. Decommissioning began in 2009 and will continue for 30 years. Drawing on collaborative fieldwork with photographers Laurie Griffiths and Jonty Tacon, this paper pays attention to the micropolitics of endurance and world-making in Visaginas. It argues that we need to find ways of supplementing the dominant narratives and framings - what Tsing calls the stories of progress and decay - through which we know and find scholarly value in postindustrial places like Visaginas. By adopting practices of listening and attending to what else might be going on, preparing to be surprised and unsettled, and opening ourselves up to explore different understandings of the process through which grand projects appear and disappear, this paper attends to how people live in and through regimes of abandonment, and how traces of former economic subjectivities endure in practices of hope, world-making and care.

Gair Dunlop is an artist and Senior Lecturer at DJCAD at the University of Dundee. His recent work Yellowcake: Atomic Modern (2017) is a three screen HD synchronised digital projection that charts the rise and fall of the UK nuclear fission research programme, seen through its sites, archives, memories and remains. Gair has spent 3 years gaining unique access to a range of research sites, archives and restricted facilities. As well as physical remains, the film explores the psychic realms of the nuclear- whether as postwar dream of a post-empire future, apocalyptic terror as entertainment, or zone beyond our understandings of time. Previous films investigating military and nuclear culture in the UK include: Atom Town: Life after technology (2011), Simulator/Realtime (2008), Dispersals (2007), Vulcan (2004).

Hector Dyer’s solo performance Thank You for Your Patience explores how we pass on knowledge of danger, how we protect one another from curiosity, and whether memories can ever be buried. From our day-to-day actions to the collective imprints we leave behind, this provocative performance exposes the nuclear future we are creating. The show is directed by Hackney Showroom Co-Artistic Director Sam Curtis Lindsay, and premiered at the Dreams Before Dawn Festival in Paris and Hackney Showroom, London in 2017. The work was presented as part of the Nuclear Culture Roundtable in Malmo Sweden, May 2017. Hector Dyer is part of the experimental performance group Ponyboy Curtis, directed by Chris Goode, and an associate artist with Bellow Theatre.

Pieter Fannes is an illustrator and is pursuing doctoral research on creativity in Belgian elementary schools. He does book illustration, editorial work and commercial illustration and specializes in live drawings of musicians in concert and public debates. Pieter is experienced in recording the complexities of debates about long-term storage of radioactive waste deep underground. His lively drawings capture the spirit of the debate, the passionate characters and challenging questions. In 2017, Pieter visually captured the 'Underground / Overground Nuclear Culture Roundtable' at Z33 House of Contemporary Art in Hasselt, Belgium. In 2015, he documented the E-TRACK RWM Open Seminar organised by the EU JRC in Brussels.

Philip Greatorex is Knowledge and Information Manager at Sellafield Ltd. His role involves developing a Heritage Plan to understand the role played by Sellafield in the story of the development of the UK Civil Nuclear industry from the 1940’s to the present. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority have requested Sellafield Ltd follows guidelines published by Historic England on the appropriate and proportionate level of recording of redundant power plants for posterity. The guidelines provide advice to the Energy Industry on the description, investigation, photographic and videographic recording of the structures; approaches to oral history and information-gathering from the workers on the site and the local community, and advice on archiving the historic records and artefacts. Philip will undertake a heritage characterisation appraisal to identify Sellafield’s national, regional and local importance in terms of its political history, company history, social history and physical site(s) history (landscape/ architecture/ technology/ operations) and enable it to designate ‘areas of special archaeological and historic importance’.

Dave Griffiths is an artist and Senior Lecturer in Interactive Arts at MMU, Manchester. He is a PhD candidate at MIRIAD, exploring chronotopes of extinction events, using the material potential of archival microfilm. His research based artwork Deep Field [UnclearZine] documents field research in Mol and Dessel in Belgium, two neighbouring rural communities co-existing with nuclear workers and radioactive waste repositories. The microfiche assembles and miniaturises photographs, out-sourced poetry and illustrations, and interviews with state scientists and a citizens monitoring group. For the benefit of far-future readers, he attempts to translate the contemporary repository as a folkloric site of conflict and unknowing. By using an analogue media durable for only 500 years, Griffiths highlights problems around the survival and reception of complex nuclear-security knowledge in the face of material, linguistic and political ruination.

Helen Grove-White is an artist who has just returned from a residency with S-Air in Sapporo Japan where she visited the Rokkasho nuclear site and Fukushima exclusion zones.
Helen has a studio in North Anglesey where she hosts artist groups. Her practice is based around the intersection between the human and the natural environment working in a variety of media including photographic media, video, sculpture and installation. A current preoccupation is the local Wylfa nuclear power station, focus of the collaborative project Power in the Land. The decommissioning of one power station and its possible replacement by another continues to generate thoughts and ideas concerning the past and the future. Helen is increasingly working with a network of artists through the wider nuclear culture network as well her own self-formed artist group, X-10.

Warren Harper is a curator, writer and researcher based in London. His work has reflected on the recent and historical cultural shifts of his home county of Essex, from its architecture, industry and how communities engage with or are impacted by these changes. He is a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths Art Department where his practice-based curatorial research project will investigate the relationship between the nuclear landscape of the Blackwater Estuary, home to the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station, and its communities and technologies. In 2016 he participated in a residency programme with Arts Catalyst and S-AIR in Hokkaido, Japan, to research nuclear power and alternative energies. There he initiated, alongside James Ravinet, research-led project Institute for the Recognition of Peripheral Interests (IROPI).

Ayano Hattori is an artist and PhD researcher Kingston University. Her research investigates photographic perception of the Internet and digital era in the context of the post-colonial center- periphery relationship imposed on Fukushima and Okinawa, the symbolic Japanese cities of post-war pacifism and economic development. With conceptual engagements between the act of looking and media (performance, digital photography and video) in her studio practice, she aims to reveal underlying disjunction and detachment towards Fukushima and Okinawa created by the dynamics of positionality in post-3.11 Japanese society rather than confrontational compassionate sentiments.

Gabriella Hirst is a visual artist from Sydney, Australia. She works with film, installation, performance, and bio-art to untangle romantic associations between art history and landscape. Her current performative research project, ‘How to Make a Bomb’ circulates around a specific breed of rose cultivated and registered with the common name Rosa ‘Atom Bomb’ in 1953. Although once a popular garden rose, the Atom Bomb Floribunda is now almost at the point of extinction, and as such Hirst is attempting to propagate new specimens from a single sourced rose with the aim of reintroducing this near-forgotten species to the British garden, in tandem with the recurrence of long-dormant cold war-era public fear-mongering. Alongside the horticultural activity, Hirst is researching possible links and associations between botanical and nuclear fields, using her engagement with this highly manipulated species as a vessel to map historical and continuing connections between colonial land exploitation, botanical nomenclature, and gardening.

Jessica Holtaway is a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her research explores themes of globalization, energy politics, politicized art practices, institutional practices and political theory, with a core focus on the writings of philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy. She has published a paper on institutional ethics in the peer-reviewed journal Museological Review and has co-edited and contributed to a volume of essays artWORK: Art, Labour and Activism, which will be published later this year by Rowman and Littlefield International. She will shortly submit her PhD thesis: Recomposing the image of ‘the globe’: micropolitical art interventions in the 21st Century. Jessica is a co-founder of PLANK research collective (Politically-Led Art and Networked Knowledge) and part of Art Action UK, a London based arts group that provide a residency for Japanese artists responding to the 2011 disaster in Fukushima.

Kaori Homma is an artist, co-founder and co-ordinator of Art Action UK, a collective of artists and curators, supporting artists dealing with post Fukushima issues to undertake research and residencies in the UK. Kaori’s recent fire etchings explore the burnt silhouette of nuclear sites and iconography within the landscape. Kaori is a lecturer in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. Her work contains a wide range of traditions, practices and ideas inherent in the context of both East and West. It spans drawing, traditional Japanese paper making and large scale installation.

Bridget Kennedy is an Art practice-led PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, focussing on industrial heritage and the legacy of the nuclear power industry. Her interest in nuclear culture began in 2014 through Power in The Land, a visual arts project, during which she investigated the cultural significance of the closure of Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey, North Wales. Creating artworks for Power in The Land opened up new areas of interest such as deep time, geophilosophy, and a re-examination of the Anthropocene. The geographical focus of her research has now shifted to Sellafield, Cumbria. Here she is looking for ways to create a new imaginary of nuclear futures via a performative installation practice.

Wesley Perriman is an artist, currently studying for a MA in Curation Practices at Leeds Arts University. He is a member of the British Nuclear Test Veteran (BNTV) network, and is developing new work in relation to his father’s experience of being stationed in Maralinga, Australia in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Yelena Popova is an artist based in Nottingham, UK. Born in a secret town in USSR where the first Soviet nuclear weapons were created, Yelena continues to explore nuclear history and materiality. Her recent project Her Name is Prometheus highlights the excitement of discovery in the early days of nuclear physics and reflects on the role of scientists like Lise Meitner and Klaus Fuchs during the Cold War. Yelena also created a gallery floor-game Townlets a mobile, interactive, plastazote sculpture based on the molecular structure of Plutonium. Yelena’s video essay Unnamed, presented at the Perpetual Uncertainty exhibition alongside her paintings, is a personal account of the history of her hometown in Russia. The film combines personal and archival footage to relate the story of Ozyorsk, built to house the workers of a plutonium plant that helped to create the Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb. Yelena Popova is represented by: Division of Labour, London; Philipp von Rosen Gallery, Cologne; and Osnova Gallery, Moscow.

Grit Ruhland is an artist and researcher exploring the impact of (post-Soviet) Uranium mining on the landscape in East Germany. The imperceptibility of the subject is especially interesting to her as well as long-term communication about low-level radioactive legacies; and the complexity of the post-mining-landscape as living spaces consisting of cultural, social and aesthetic dimensions. She has a background in Spatial- and Sound Art. For her practice-based PhD at Bauhaus University Weimar in Germany she moved into the former house of her grandparents in the research area. Here she is performing landscape observations, conducting interviews with various stakeholders, joining a local environmental activist group, meeting international (post-)mining experts and making field-recordings. Her research accompanies the ongoing process of rehabilitation, showing the huge scale of post-mining landscapes in general, but especially when radioactive elements are involved.

Dr. Susan Schuppli is an artist and writer and Deputy Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, at Goldsmiths. Her current research-based artistic and critical inquiry investigates how environmental systems operate as a vast information network composed of technical as well as natural sensors that are registering and transmitting the signals of pollution and climate change. This research seeks to coalesce disparate – and oftentimes imperceptible – data sources across a wide range of spatial scales that, when taken together, create a more comprehensive picture of our current ecological condition. With respect to the nuclear she has focused on two primary aspects: the aesthetic challenge of visualising the spatial dispersal of radioactive contamination and; and the legal challenge of criminal liability organised by the condition of direct causality which hampers most environmental justice work to which the nuclear with its specific decay rate and isotopic structure offers as a unique counter example.

Paul Thompson has been a Radiochemist at AWE for over 40 years, joining AWE straight from Durham University. During his time at AWE he has specialised in radiochemical separations of complex mixtures of radionuclides. He has been connected with the International Nuclear Forensics Community since 1995, being one of the original members of the Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group. He has represented the UK at international meetings, in Vienna with both the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation. In the UK he was the Chairman of the Royal Society of Chemistry Radiochemistry Group December 2012 to 2014.

Dr. Nicola Triscott is a cultural producer, curator, writer and researcher, specializing in the intersections between art, science, technology and society. She is the founder and Artistic Director/CEO of Arts Catalyst, and Principal Research Fellow in Interdisciplinary Art and Science at the University of Westminster. The Arts Catalyst programme includes investigations into nuclear culture such as: the Atomic exhibition, James Acord, Young, Mark Arial Waller (1998); Nuclear: Art & Radioactivity, Kyprous Kyprianou, Simon Hollington & Chris Oakley (2008); more recently working with Ele Carpenter on the Nuclear Culture Symposium (2013), Panning for Atomic Gold Symposium (2014), Actinium exhibition, forum and field research in Japan (2014), Kota Takeuchi (2016), and Don’t Follow the Wind (2017).

Andy Weir is an artist and writer. He has been interested in nuclear temporality since making artwork on geological repository sites, Deep Time Contagion, in 2012. Since then, he has developed research around problems and potentials of using art to ‘interface’ long-term radiological futures, focusing on concepts, affects and politics of ‘deep time’ in relation to geotrauma, futurologies, subjectification and the time of contemporary art. Recent texts from this research include ‘Thick Dia-chronic Crash. Incision Into Delay’, in Realism Materialism Art, ‘Cosmic Alreadymades’ in Journal of Curatorial Studies, and ‘Instituting Art at The Outermost’ in Project Anywhere. He is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Art University Bournemouth, PhD Candidate and MFA Graduate at Goldsmiths. His Pazugoo project was featured on the Perpetual Uncertainty exhibition curated by Ele Carpenter, which led to the Malmo Konstmuseum acquiring a Pazugoo figure for their collection in 2018.

Robert Williams is an artist and Professor of Fine Art at the University of Cumbria Institute of the Arts. Robert regularly works with collaborators such as artists Mark Dion and Bryan McGovern Wilson; conceptual writers Prof. Simon Morris and Nick Thurston, and German cultural sociologist Dr. Hilmar Schäfer. Recent collaborations with Schäfer produced Dis Manibus: A taxonomy of ghosts from popular forms (2013) featuring tin-type spirit photographs by American Corey Riddell and design by Australian Natalie Wilkin. His new book Calvariae Disjecta: The many hauntings of Burton Agnes Hall (2017) investigates the dissemination of a regional ghost-story across popular cultural forms. In 2013-14 Robert worked with Bryan McGovern Wilson (USA) to produce ‘Cumbrian Alchemy’ an archival exhibition and publication of their performative research into the relationship between nuclear industry, landscape, archaeology and folklore in North-west of England. The project includes a series of drawings, photographs and archives that explore complex and speculative relationships between objects, humans, materials, landscape and beliefs overtime. The project was shown in UK and France, and travelled to Umeå, and Malmö in Sweden, and Hasselt in Belgium as part of the Nuclear Culture project, led by Ele Carpenter.

Louise K Wilson is a visual artist who makes installations, live works, sound works and single channel videos, and is Lecturer in Art & Design at the University of Leeds. Her recent documentary for Radio 4 on Cold War Art was broadcast on 4 Sept, 2018. Research is central to her practice and she frequently involves individuals from industry, museums, medicine and the scientific community in the making of work. Previous associations have included the Montreal Neurological Institute, the Science Museum, and the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training facility in Moscow. Her current research uses the medium of sound to ask philosophical and material questions about the spatio-temporal physicality of sites and our perceptions of them. She has travelled to numerous (military and scientific) sites including nuclear submarines, US listening stations, university halls, marine research environments, rocket launch sites and disused RAF bases in pursuit of the acoustics of resonant spaces.

Invited Participants

Sim Chi Yin artist and Magnum photographer. Her exhibition ‘Most People Were Silent’ presented photographs taken in the vicinity of nuclear sites in North Korea and the United States of America. Commissioned in 2017 by Oslo’s Nobel Peace Centre and toured to ICA Singapore (2018). She is a PhD candidate in the Dept of War Studies, Kings College London.

Claudia Lastra is Executive Director of the Arts Catalyst. Claudia a long term partner in the Nuclear Culture project. She has an MA in Material and Visual Culture in Anthropology, UCL. Arts Catalyst has presented nuclear culture exhibitions by Don’t Follow the Wind, Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway, and Kota Takeuchi.

David Mabb is an artist with a longstanding interest in the legacy of William Morris. His recent series A Provisional Memorial for Nuclear Disarmament was inspired by the Ministry of Defence seemingly antithetical use of Morris fabrics on nuclear submarines. David Mabb is Reader in Art and Programme Leader, MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths.

Rachel Magdeberg is a practice-based PhD candidate at the University of Wolverhampton, trying to unravel the broad concept of the Nuclear Anthropocene in relationship to painting, specifically addressing visuality, agency and human making. She is researching 20th Century nuclear art movements and contemporary ideas of vital materiality and the feminist anthropocene.

Sam Nightingale is an artist who investigates ‘spectral ecologies’ - the haunting or co-presence of another time that are active in forming the material conditions of the present. His practice focuses on geophysical locations and their seemingly invisible histories. He is a PhD Candidate in the Departments of Media, Communication & Cultural Studies / The Centre for Research Architecture Goldsmiths, University of London.

Damian O'Doherty is Professor of Management and Organization, University of Manchester. Soon to undertake ethnographic field work in Wylfa, North Wales.

Adam Piette is Professor of Modern Literature, University of Sheffield, his current research concentrates on the construction of Europe during the Cold War, and the legacy of the Cold War post-1989 in terms of militarization, globalized technology and international relations as represented in the cultural ‘wars’ of the late 20th and 21st centuries.

Peter Simmonds is an environmental social scientist and member of the Science, Society and Sustainability Research Group at UEA. The main emphasis of his research is on the social dimensions of risk including natural hazards, radioactive waste management, nuclear power, industrial hazards and agricultural biotechnology.

Kyoko Tachibana is Programme Director of S-Air, Japan, and has supported nuclear culture residencies with Ele Carpenter, Karen Kramer, Warren Harper and James Ravinet, and Helen Gove-White. In 2014 Kyoko worked with Ele Carpenter to organise the Actinium exhibition and field trips with Arts Catalyst.

Jonathon Turnbull is a Geography PhD candidate, University of Cambridge. His research is looks at the human-animal relations in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, including conservation scientists, tourists and a charity called the Clean Futures Fund, and focusing mainly oncanids - dogs, wolves and foxes. A second strand of research is concerned with narratives of post-apocalypse in science fiction and how they interact/inform the real world

Lovely Umayam is a nuclear policy analyst based in Washington, DC, and the founder of Bombshelltoe, an arts project examining the intersection of arts, history and the atomic. Current projects include a Navajo nuclear histories film about how uranium mining/nuclear weapons production in the US affected indigenous health and traditional knowledge.