Material Nuclear Culture

Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Courageous, 2016
Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Courageous, 2016
Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Courageous, Material Nuclear Culture exhibition, 2016
Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Courageous, Material Nuclear Culture exhibition, 2016
David Mabb, Material Nuclear Culture exhibition, 2016
David Mabb, Material Nuclear Culture exhibition, 2016
temporary index, Material Nuclear Culture exhibition, photo Dom Moore 2016
temporary index, Material Nuclear Culture exhibition, photo Dom Moore 2016
Thomson & Craighead, temporary index, 2016
Thomson & Craighead, temporary index, 2016

Material Nuclear Culture is an exhibition exploring the material traces and cultural legacy of nuclear powered submarines in the UK, within the international discourse of deep time aesthetics and memory.

A partnership between KARST and Arts Catalyst, curated by Ele Carpenter.

The exhibition highlights the complexity of archiving the cultural legacy of submarine heritage within a wider discussion of how to comprehend the deep time challenges of radioactive waste storage.

Nick Crowe & Ian Rawlinson’s new film, Courageous, follows the material surfaces of a nuclear submarine. Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead’s, temporary index, is a digital artwork that counts down decay rates of entombed radioactive waste sites around the world. David Mabb’s new sculptural series, A Provisional Memorial to Nuclear Disarmament, draws on the Royal Navy’s love of William Morris fabric and Morris’s revolutionary politics. Susan Schuppli’s audio work Sound of Sand, investigates the poetics of sonar surveillance.

The exhibition will situate these new works alongside works by Japanese artists investigating the deep time memory over generations. Erika Kobayashi’s ‘Half Life’ calendar maps the intergenerational timescales of radiation between Europe and Japan, through the decay rate of Raduim. Artist Kota Takeuchi will present his work Take Stone Monuments Twice revisiting monuments along the Tohoku coast of Japan. The artwork reflects on the tensions between monuments of the past and markers for the future.

This year will mark the end of the Royal Navy fifteen-year public consultation on how to dismantle British nuclear submarines, and where to store the reactor vessels. The Submarine Dismantling Project Advisory Group is the first MOD public consultation with expert advisors, NGO’s and statutory agencies that represent a range of experience and political concerns. The exhibition takes place in the spirit of the advisory group and their commitment to an open and frank discussion about the issues of nuclear dismantling and radioactive waste management.

temporary index is an Arts Catalyst Nuclear Culture Commission by Thomson & Craighead
Artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead investigate understanding of geological and planetary time through the relationship between live data and the material world. Their temporary index is an online database of live decay-rate counters, which operate as markers of time as well as place. The artwork utilises live and pre-recorded data feeds which can be embedded in specific sites, syndicated online, presented in art galleries, preserved in a museum collection, and included in nuclear archives. The artwork publically presents invisible data through a series of numeric counters which countdown the probabilistic decay of radioactive materials in seconds. The design of the counters demonstrates how human measurement of time is a process of linguistic and pictorial language. The result is an animated object of contemplation; representations of time that far outstrip the human life cycle and provide us with a glimpse into the vast time scales that define the universe in which we live, but which also represent a future limit of humanity’s temporal sphere of influence.
The counters include: Onkalo Spent Nuclear Fuel Repository, Finalnd;  Hallam Nuclear Generating Station, USA; Waste Isolation Power Plant (WIPP) USA;  Repository for Radioactive Waste Morsleben, Germany; Schacht Asse II Intermediate Waste Store, Germany; Piqua Nuclear Power Facility, USA; Hanford, USA; Dodewaard Nuclear Power Plant, Netherlands; Chernobyl Reactor #4, Ukraine. temporary index was developed during a residency at HUMlab in partnership with Bildmuseet, Umeå University, 2015.



Material Nuclear Culture Roundtable Discussion
10.00am, Sat 18 June 2016
KARST 22, George Pl, Plymouth PL1 3NY
A discussion about art and nuclear culture will take place in the centre of the Material Nuclear Culture exhibition bringing together artists, submariners, and members of the Submarine Dismantling Project Advisory Group (SDP-AG) and NsubF Nuclear Submarine Forum in the South East.
Participants include: Les Netherton, chair of the SDP-AG; Mark Portman, WO1, Royal Navy (Submarines); Carien Kremer, Curator, William Morris Gallery; artists: Nick Crowe, David Mabb, Kota Takeuchi, Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead; Ele Carpenter, Curator; Nicola Triscott, Artistic Director of Arts Catalyst.
The discussion will take place around a reconstruction of 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 nuclear materials at the Hanford site.



Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson have worked together since 1994 and are drawn to the ways in which power and authority articulate themselves through the grammar and rhetoric that surrounds them. Their works often combine densely layered visual and acoustic allusions to faith, politics, national identity and the environment. They live and work in Manchester and Berlin.
James Acord was the only private individual in the world licensed to own and handle radioactive materials. He is likely to remain so since the authorities closed the loopholes after he achieved his license. His work was a story of a 20-year performance, a cat and mouse game with the nuclear regulatory authorities, in which he pursued his dream of converting highly radioactive waste into inert metal for use in art. Along the way, he created sculpture and events that probed the history of nuclear engineering, often incorporating radioactive materials. His astonishing story shines light on the secrecy and security with which society cloaks the nuclear industry.
Susan Schuppli's research practice examines media artefacts that emerge out of sites of contemporary conflict and state violence to ask questions about the ways in which media are enabling or limiting the possibility of transformative politics. Her current work explores the ways in which toxic ecologies from nuclear accidents and oil spills, to the dark snow of the arctic, are producing an 'extreme image' archive of material wrongs. Projects have been exhibited throughout Canada, the US, Europe and Asia.
Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead (Thomson & Craighead) make artworks that examine the changing socio-political structures of the Information Age. In particular they have been looking at how the digital world is ever more closely connected to the physical world becoming a geographical layer in our collective sensorium.  Time is often treated with a sculptor’s mentality, as a pliable quantity that can be moulded and remodelled.  Jon is Professor of Fine Art at The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London and Alison is Reader in Contemporary Art at University of Westminster and Lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University of London. They live and work between London and Ross-shire.  
David Mabb is a British artist who works with appropriated imagery to rethink the political implications of different aesthetic forms in modern art and design history. Recent work has focussed on the designs of 19th Century English interior designer, writer and socialist William Morris. Mabb’s interest in Morris stems from the social and political connotations of Morris’ work, and the continued relevancy of Morris’ politics. His interpretations or reconfigurations of Morris’ designs consider the relationship between Morris’ own thinking and other forms of cultural production.


The Material Nuclear Culture exhibition is produced by KARST and Arts Catalyst, curated by Ele Carpenter with support from: Arts Council England, Goldsmiths College University of London, University of Westminster, Sasakawa Foundation, and Bildmuseet Sweden. The research and development of the exhibition was also supported by AHRC, npo S-Air and the Daiwa Foundation.

The Nuclear Culture website has more information about Ele Carpenter's research.