Nuclear Culture Workshop

James Acord, Round Table, for artists, environmentalists and nuclear experts, Hanford USA, 1999
James Acord, Round Table, for artists, environmentalists and nuclear experts, Hanford USA, 1999

Nuclear Culture Workshop, 27 April 2013. The Arts Catalyst, London.

The Nuclear Culture Workshop was part of a weekend symposium at The Arts Catalyst.  The symposium was part of the Nuclear Culture curatorial research project by Ele Carpenter to investigate the potential for developing new artwork in response to the wider questions surrounding the dismantling of nuclear submarines raised through the Submarine Dismantling Project Advisory Group (SDP-AG). The Advisory Group represents a paradigm shift in the culture of nuclear technology and public consultation, opening up a space for dialogue between statutory authorities, NGOs and community organizations, academics and now artists. In the 21st Century the language of the nuclear industry is shifting towards decommissiong and dismantling. This raises many questions about materiality, ethics, invisibility and representation in the field. The event provided a unique opportunity for sharing research and practice to develop an understanding of each other’s work, methodologies, languages and concepts.

The dialogue took place around a re-creation of artist James Acord’s ‘Round Table’. A memorial to Acord (1944-2011) who originally made the table in 1999 to bring together nuclear scientists, engineers and the environment agencies for a frank and open discussion about the possibilities and dangers of working with nuclear material (see image above).

The Workshop brought together 30 artists and stakeholders to share and discuss their work.  The day was introduced by Ele Carpenter, curator of the Nuclear Culture project, and chaired by Susan Kelly. Presentations from members of the SDP-AG included Nuclear Policy Research Fellow Dr Paul Dorfman, Stakeholder consultant David Collier and anti-nuclear weapons activist Jane Tallents. Presentations by artists included: Lise Autogena, Nick Crowe & Ian Rawlinson, Jon Thompson & Alison Craighead. Followed by round table discussions on: Submarine objects led by Ele Carpenter and Jane Tallents;  Nuclear language led by Di McDonald; Stakeholder consultation & risk perception led by David Collier; Future ethics and policy led by Paul Dorfman; Risk perception and Fukushima led by Kodwo Eshun; Nuclear waste storage and semiotics led by Cecile Massart, Jantine Schroeder and Nick Crowe; Forensic Analysis led by Susan Schuppli; Ovid's Metamorphosis and radiation exposure led by Mark Aerial Waller.


Workshop Speakers and Facilitators

Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway have worked together for over twenty years. Their projects often use new technologies and visualisations of global realtime data, to explore how the social, geographic and economic systems we have created, impact on our human experience. Lise Autogena is Reader in Fine Art, Cultural, Communication and Computing Institute (C3RI), Sheffield Hallam University.

Ele Carpenter is curator of the Nuclear Culture project investigating the potential for commissioning artists to respond the SDP-AG process and wider question of nuclear dismantling. Her curatorial practice responds to specific socio-political contexts, and she is curator of the Open Source Embroidery project. Ele is currently writing papers on Uranium glass and The Object Submarine and will present at the Transnational Nuclear Perspectives Symposium at iCHSTM 2013. She is Lecturer in MFA Curating at Goldsmiths College.

David Collier has a particular interest in the design, delivery and evaluation of structured, participative, decision-making on decisions with environmental or societal significance. He is a Senior Visiting Fellow, Dept of Management, LSE, and a leading UK stakeholder engagement specialist with 35 years’ experience of nuclear related issues including design and operation of nuclear plant, nuclear safety regulation, human error, risk communication and stakeholder engagement. He has worked on major consultation projects as far away as Russia and Ukraine and on all major UK nuclear programmes of the last 20 years. His clients have included all UK nuclear utilities and their regulators, plus Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth. David was a member of the SDP Advisory Group for 10 yrs before becoming a consultant on the SDP team at the Ministry of Defence. He is speaking as an individual, and not as an MOD contractor.

Alison Craighead and Jon Thomson are fascinated by how trends of globalisation and networked global communications have been re-shaping the way we perceive and understand the world. Many of their works investigate time and the digital representation of time and narrative. Thomson lectures at The Slade School of Fine Art, Craighead is Reader in Contemporary Art and Visual Culture at University of Westminster and Lecturer in Art at Goldsmiths.

Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson are primarily concerned with the languages of power, with its grammar and with its rhetoric. Their projects address questions around faith, politics, national identity and the environment and their video and sculptural works attempt to create an encounter with the viewer that focuses on the complexity of objects and actions in relation to their social contexts. Ian Rawlinson is Course Leader, MA Fine Art, Manchester School of Art. Nick Crowe is Senior Lecturer, MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths.

Dr Paul Dorfman is Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust UK Nuclear Policy Research Fellow; Founder of the Nuclear Consulting Group (NCG); Member, European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER); Advisor to UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) nuclear Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP); Member, European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) Transparency and Risk Working Groups; Steering Group Member, SAFEGROUNDS (Safety and Environmental Guidance for the Remediation of Nuclear and Defence Sites); served as Secretary to the UK government scientific advisory Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE). Paul led the nuclear section of the European Environment Agency (EEA) Report: 'Late Lessons from Early Warnings' (2013), and led recent European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) research into participatory democracy and energy in the EU.

Kodwo Eshun is a writer, theorist, filmmaker and co-founder of The Otolith Group with Anjalika Sagar, 2002. Their practice includes curating, publishing and production of artists work. Their research into aural and visual cultures is informed by the legacy and potential of the moving image and the archive. In 2012 The Otolith Group made the film ‘The Radiant’ exploring the aftermath of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the fissures opened by these catastrophes, The Radiant travels through time and space, invoking the historical promise of nuclear energy and summoning the future threat of radiation that converges upon the present. (see film programme)

Susan Kelly (Chair) is an artist and writer whose research looks at relationships between art and micropolitics, rhetoric and practices of organisation. She works in performance, installation, video, and writes and publishes. She works both independently and collectively with various art-activist research groups in London, and teaches Fine Art at Goldsmith's College.

Cécile Massart is an artist focused on the memory of nuclear waste and its future. Exploring nuclear sites in Europe, Brazil and Japan has gradually gradually modified her perception of these facilities. After producing a series of works on the identification and archiving of radioactive waste under the title “Un site archivé pour alpha, bêta, gamma”, she is now developing research on markers under the name “Cover”. Her aim is to inscribe this unique 21st century archeological stratum in the landscape, thereby calling for a continuous responsibility. These nuclear markers are meant to evolve: they will become a basis on which future generations will pass on the memory and, hopefully, improve their meaning by new contemporary creations.

Di McDonald has campaigned against nuclear weapons since 1981 taking part in protests at Greenham Women’s Peace Camp, Cruisewatch, Sea Action and then Nukewatch, and now Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp. Di founded the Nuclear Information Service (NIS) in 1993 to provide information on nuclear issues, particularly disseminating Nukewatch observations of British nuclear weapons road transport movements to the media, academics, disarmament sector and politicians. When the MOD announced their submarine-dismantling project in 2000, Di convened a national meeting in Plymouth of interested groups to look at the implications for communities. The MOD then formed the ISOLUS (Intermediate Storage of Laid Up Submarines) Advisory Group and Di was invited to join. She is Chair of the Board of NIS and secretary, Nuclear Submarine Forum.

Jantine Schröder has an MA in Philosophy (Universiteit Antwerpen & Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), International Relations and Conflict Prevention ( Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and Sustainable Development and Human Ecology (Vrije Universiteit Brussel).  Since 2008 she has worked at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) as a member of the Society and Policy Support expert group on the Programme of Integration of Social Aspects into Nuclear Research (PISA, NST). From 2011 she has been working at the University of Antwerp within the research team Society and Environment, on InSOTEC (Euratom FP7), a project on socio-technical challenges related to radioactive waste management, more specifically geological disposal. Her research is currently focussed on the governance of energy, risk and notably radioactive waste. Although her work is based in the theoretical frameworks of Science & Technology Studies, philosophy of science and technology, political philosophy, ethics and sustainable development studies, she favours approaches that keep a close link to practice and enable interaction (between people, disciplines, interests).

Susan Schuppli is an artist and writer. Her current project Forensic Architecture refers to the presentation of spatial analysis within contemporary legal and polit­ical forums. The project maps, images, and mod­els sites of violence within the framework of international humanitarian law and human rights. Her research investigates the concept of ‘the material witness’ an entity whose physical properties or technical configuration records evidence of passing events. Whether these events register as a by-product of an unintentional encounter or as an expression of direct action, history and by extension politics is encoded at these junctures. When materials, including computational objects, are subject to external processes that bring about their structural reordering, they produce what Isabelle Stengers calls “informed material” in the sense that their internal composition becomes progressively enriched by information.

Jane Tallents has campaigned against nuclear weapons for over 30 years, most of them around the submarine base at Faslane.  Her campaigning covers a range of activities from meeting with Scottish Government Ministers to taking Nonviolent Direct Action sometimes resulting in prison sentences. Jane see’s the abolition of nuclear weapons as a creative act releasing not just wasted time and resources but the possibility of a future for the planet. As a member of the Nuclear Submarine Forum she has been involved with the SDP-AG for 10 years, working from the premise: "I wouldn't have started from here - but the problem exists and something has to be done." She believes that an obvious part of dealing with the radioactive waste from nuclear powered submarines would be to stop building any more.

Mark Aerial Waller makes films, events and sculptural installations that seek relationships with the historical positioning of culture; that mythologically potent archival data can coexist in the area between the reconfigured present and its original home. This work includes the film Glow Boys (1999), made in part at Oldbury and Sizewell reactors, after a year's research meeting staff and contractors at BNFL sites across the UK, Midwatch (2001), where interviews with veterans of the first British nuclear weapons tests collide with Melville's Moby Dick in a psychologically charged exchange. Waller lectures at Central Saint Martins and Norwich University of the Arts and exhibits internationally.