James Acord, Mark Waller, Carey Young explored the economic and cultural legacy of atomic power in a series of new commissions
The 'Atomic' exhibition confronted fears and assumptions about science and the nuclear industry. Featuring the work of the American 'nuclear sculptor' James Acord, the only private individual in the world licensed to handle radioactive materials. 'Atomic' dealt with the tricky issue of the idealism behind the 'white heat of technology' of the fifties and sixties and attempts to break down the wall of secrecy which has shielded the nuclear industry since the cold war.
Acord had an ambition to break down the wall of secrecy which has shielded the nuclear industry since the cold war. His 15-year self-organised residency on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, home of the atomic bomb, was a tragi-comic dance between Acord and the US Department of Energy as he sought permission to sculpt with the stuff of the nuclear age. Atomic leads us through his perilous journey to a site-specific display of his nuclear reliquaries - specially commissioned for his UK residency at Imperial College London.
As a counterpoint, artist Carey Young travelled to the former USSR to photograph the remnants of the nuclear-fuelled space race, the hero-worship of Gagarin and the ironic spectacle of the pride of Russia's technological achievements displayed among knock-down Western consumer goods.
Meanwhile, Mark Waller gained access to some of Britain's nuclear power stations to film a short thriller, 'Glow Boys', to be shown as an installation, about itinerant nuclear power workers who mysteriously develop superhuman qualities, featuring Mark E. Smith of The Fall.
2 - 27 October 1998, Imperial College Gallery and Queen's Tower, Imperial College, London, UK
The exhibition at Imperial was accompanied by a round table discussion Art & the Atomic State. A schools programme led by James Acord supported the exhibition.
July - August 1999, Kluze Fortress, Bovec, Slovenia
The Atomic exhibition was shown at Kluze Fortress near Bovec. The fortress is at the head of the Soca Valley, near one of the main entry points to Slovenia from Italy and the exhibition has received a constant stream of visitors, mostly European tourists. James Acord gave his notable lecture-performance in the capital, Ljubljana.
2 Oct - 28 Nov 1999, Yard Gallery, NOW, Nottingham, UK
Atomic toured to the Yard Gallery at Wollaton Hall Museum in Nottingham as part of the NOW Festival, a festival of contemporary arts organised by the City Council. James Acord was artist-in-residence at the NOW Festival. Accompanying the exhibition was a schools programme, led by James Acord, who also gave a talk.
Softback. Glows in the dark.
Essay by James Flint.
48 pages. 21 colour, 10 b&w illustrations.