Perpetual Uncertainty Roundtable

James Acord, Round table, Hanford, 1999.
James Acord, Round table, Hanford, 1999.

Art and Deep Time Radiation
Roundtable Discussion
Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Sweden
Saturday 19 November 2016
11am – 5pm

A discussion about art and the deep time of radiation to accompany the Perpetual Uncertainty exhibition. Short presentations by artists and nuclear scholars will be followed by a series of small roundtable discussions bringing together a range of disciplinary perspectives on the nuclear, including artists and people working on the long-term storage of radioactive waste in Europe. The event is inspired by James Acord’s roundtable that he built in his Hanford studio, USA 1999, to bring together environmentalists and people from the nuclear industry to discuss the clean up of the Hanford site.

Chair John O’Brian, curator and writer

Peter C van Wyck (writer)
Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead (artists)
Susan Schuppli (artist and writer)
Johan Swahn (Director, MKG Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review)
Dave Griffiths (artist)
Jantine Schroeder (SCK/CEN, Belgium &OECD/NEA project on long term memory)
Erich Berger and Mari Keto (artists)

11:00 Welcome and Introduction
11:15 Presentations
12:15 Lunch break
13:15 Presentations
14:15 Coffee break
14:45 Roundtable discussions (break into four groups)*
16:15 Plenary and close, chaired by John O’Brian
16:45 Time to view the exhibition. Bildmuseet is open until 18.00

*Roundtable discussions:
Each of the four discussion groups will be led by a facilitator on a particular theme. Each group will include between 10 -12 people. A rapporteur will take notes and agree them with the group to report back to the plenary discussion at the end of the day.

Invited Participants:
Invited participants will include: artists, film-makers, activists, policy makers, professionals engaged in nuclear research and radioactive waste management. In addition members of the public with an interest in nuclear issues, deep time, art and radiation will be able to buy tickets online.

Confirmed participants include: Cornelius Holtorf, Professor of Archaeology, Linnaeus University, Sweden; Helen Grove-White, artist living and working in Wales, and contributor to The Nuclear Culture Source Book; Robin Grove-White, Emeritus Professor, Environment and Society, Lancaster University, UK.

Speakers Biographies:

John O'Brian is a professor, writer and curator. He is best known for his books and articles on modern art history and criticism. Since 1987, he has taught at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, where he is a Faculty Associate of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. His curatorial research focuses on the relationship between photography and the atomic era. The technologies of photography and nuclear fission, he contends, are intimately entwined to one another as well as with the social and political conditions of postwar modernity. In 2015 O’Brian curated Camera Atomica, for the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, including over 200 works ranging from photographs taken by the United States government of atomic bomb testing, photos of anti-nuclear protests, to images of the utilization of nuclear technology in medicine.

Erich Berger is a visual artist and curator trained in philosophy and engineering. He is interested in information processes and feedback structures, which he investigates through installations, situations, performances and interfaces, which have been shown internationally since the mid 90s. His current explorations of deep time and hybrid ecology led him to work with geological processes, radiogenic phenomena and their socio-political implications in the here and now. Berger is also director of the Bioartsociety in Helsinki.

Mari Keto combines jewellery materials in her installations and portraits to explore the limits of artifacts. Her research-based work combines a conceptual underpinning and a high degree of craftsmanship. She lives and works in Copenhagen. Erich Berger and Mari Keto’s collaborative Inheritance Project is presented in the Perpetual Uncertainty exhibition, and The Nuclear Culture Source Book.

Thomson & Craighead Jon Thomson (b. 1969) and Alison Craighead (b. 1971) live and work in London. They make artworks and installations for galleries and specific sites including online spaces. Much of their recent work looks at live networks like the web and how they are changing the way we all understand the world around us. In 2014, they were shortlisted for the Nam June Paik Award, Germany. Recent solo exhibitions include: Party Booby Trap, Carroll/Fletcher (2016); Maps DNA and Spam, Dundee Contemporary Arts (2014); Not even the sky, MEWO Kunstalle, Memminge (2013). Recent group exhibitions include: Electronic Superhighway, Whitechapel, London (2016); Big Bang Data. Somerset House, London (2015); Symbols/ Transmitted Histories, MOCA North Miami (2014); Global Activism, SKM Karlsruhe (2014). Jon is Reader in Fine Art at The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London; Alison is Reader in Contemporary Art and Visual Culture at University of Westminster and lectures in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Thomson & Craighead are presenting their temporary index artwork in the Perpetual Uncertainty exhibition, and The Nuclear Culture Source Book.

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 communites 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. The microfiche proposes a gesture to future citizens, that could be re-translated and reproduced many times through deep-time subject to a decision: to remember, or to delete?

Jantine Schröder is a researcher within the expertise group Society & Policy Support of the institute Environment, Health & Safety at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN, working on the Programme of Integration of Social Aspects into nuclear research (PISA), focussing on energy and risk governance and emergency management in the past, and currently on radioactive waste management as a socio-technical challenge. From 2011 to 2014 she also worked within the research team Society and Environment at University of Antwerp, which coordinated InSOTEC, a European project on socio-technical challenges related to geological disposal of radioactive waste. Her research focuses on the complexities of the long term management of high level radioactive waste, and notably investigates the co-shaping of technical and social aspects in the development of geological disposal facilities.

Susan Schuppli is an artist and researcher based in London whose work examines material evidence from war and conflict to environmental disasters. Creative projects have been exhibited throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, and the US. She has published widely within the context of media and politics and is author of the forthcoming book, Material Witness (MIT Press). Schuppli is Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths and was previously a research fellow on the Forensic Architecture ERC project. She is a recipient of the ICP Infinity Award, 2016. She is currently working on “Atmospheric Feedback Loops” a commission for Sonic Acts. Schuppli is author of ‘Trace Evidence: A Nuclear Trilogy’ In: The Nuclear Culture Source Book.

Dr. Johan Swahn is the director of MKG, the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review, based in Göteborg Sweden. His work for MKG mainly involves participation in the licence review processes of the Swedish project for a final repository of spent nuclear fuel. Dr. Swahn also leads the radioactive waste management work of the European organisation Nuclear Transparency Watch, NTW, and is member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, IPFM.

Peter C van Wyck is Professor of Communication Studies, and Director of the Media Studies program at Concordia University, Montréal, Canada. He is currently working on the third of a trilogy of nuclear themed books entitled The Angel Turns. The previous works are Signs of Danger (2005), and Highway of the Atom (2010). Van Wyk is author of ‘The Anthropocene’s Signature’ In: The Nuclear Culture Source Book.