Objects of Transcendence

Laboratory for Variable Risk Perception, Ele Carpenter, 2017
Laboratory for Variable Risk Perception, Ele Carpenter, 2017

Objects of Transcendence: Ele Carpenter, Jeremy Hutchison, Jasleen Kaur, Matthew Plummer-Fernandez.
Watermans Arts Centre
21 Jan - 5 March 2017
Preview Fri 20 Jan 6.30-8.30pm
Curated by Irini Papadimitriou and Jonathan Munro

Objects of Transcendence looks at how the object can transcend its individual meaning to make a social or political comment. It brings together the work of leading contemporary artists Ele Carpenter, Jeremy Hutchison, Jasleen Kaur and Matthew Plummer-Fernandez. The exhibition explores how each of the artists focuses on materiality in their own art practices and how the language emerging from the object can draw our attention, challenging our way of seeing reality, and rewarding us with new perspectives on a range of contemporary issues. From portraits built from Amazon's purchase-behaviour algorithms to everyday items bathed in radioactivity, this is an exhibition that will spark new ways of thinking.

Catalogue with essay by Nella Aarne https://issuu.com/watermans/docs/objects_of_transcendence_catologue

Ele Carpenter, 2017
Singularly Assured Destruction: A laboratory for measuring the variable risk perception of radioactivity. Display cabinet, domestic uranium glass, Ultra Violet light, log book. Supported by Goldsmiths University of London, The Arts Catalyst.

Uranium Glass is an alchemical delight, radiating an uncanny green glow. It provides one of the most familiar everyday experiences of radiation inhabiting our domestic spaces, translating nuclear electricity into a visible radioactive form under ultra-violet light.

The Singularly Assured Destruction artwork is an amateur laboratory measuring the radioactivity of uranium glass to consider the variable risk perception of radiation. Each time the work is on public display the activity of each piece of glass is measured and recorded in a log-book. Using several radiation detectors reveals the complexity of measuring the behaviour of alpha, beta and gamma emissions using different scales. The research process highlights the need for a wider understanding of the behavior of radioactive isotopes in the environment, and the importance of standardizing radiation measurements internationally.

Combining Nineteenth century alchemy with concerns for nuclear safety and the intergenerational responsibility of storing radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years, the project contributes to the evolving discourse of the nuclear arts and humanities. Uranium Dioxide (uranium salts) has been used to colour glass since the early 19th Century, and the earliest glass in this collection dates from about 1870. For nuclear advisors it has been an example of safe radiation levels, whilst others are alarmed by its radioactive content (Skelcher, 2002). Today the glassware is commonly available in charity shops and antique centers. The production of Uranium Glass using depleted uranium, a by-product of the nuclear industry, has yet to be fully researched and documented.

Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is a cold war military doctrine where the use of nuclear weapons in a conflict ensures annihilation of both attacker and defender. Whilst many may consider MAD to render the weapons technology unusable and obsolete, the British Government’s commitment to renew Trident and Trump’s statements about nuclear proliferation have raised concerns about the risk of MAD in a post-truth nuclear economy. The possession of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy puts a community in a state of singularly assured destruction (SAD) through its own local risk factors. The accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima have caused self-harm to local populations as well as downwind nations. In response to the Fukushima reactor meltdown Japanese iPhone Geiger counters now enable communities to collectively measure, map and monitor changing radiation levels in their environment. The civilian production of nuclear energy is essential for the production of nuclear weapons, as well as producing electricity. Whilst the Green movement is divided on whether nuclear power could be a solution to fossil fueled global warming, the industry still doesn’t have a solution for radioactive waste. In the twenty-first century nuclear agencies are researching how to bury high-level waste deep underground in the fossil record in geological repositories that will need to be marked for a million years.