Nuclear power is re-emerging as a concern for our times, both as a generator of energy and as part of a defence strategy. Today it seems to stand for the failed utopian promises of modernism and a fresh hope for a carbon-free future. The contradictions that lie at its core have provided a rich source of questioning for artists, scientists, ecologists and activists for many years.
Last year, high court judge Jeremy Sullivan caused an apparent setback to the government's nuclear energy ambitions by ruling that public consultation into the creation of a new fleet of nuclear power stations was "misleading" and "seriously flawed". Soon after these events, Simon Hollington & Kypros Kyprianou started a residency at The British Atomic Nuclear Group as part of a public perceptions programme. Hollington & Kyprianou's work in Nuclear is the outcome from this residency, particularly their work within B.A.N.G's wide-ranging public consultation into the possibility of siting a nuclear power facility in the heart of London. Their new installation, 'The Nightwatchman' traces changing perceptions of the nuclear power industry over its 50 year history through a single immersive narrative environment, blending fact and fiction into a darkly humorous journey through hard-nosed PR and spin to a logical hysteria.
Chris Oakley's new film Half-life looks at the histories of Harwell, birthplace of the UK nuclear industry, and the new development of fusion energy technology at the Culham facility in Oxfordshire. Produced with the co-operation of both these organisations, the film examines nuclear science research through a historical and cultural filter. Drawing on archive footage of the sites, alongside contemporary materials, the work takes structural clues from nuclear physics, exploring the heritage of nuclear energy from the roots of the technology that drove the industrial revolution.
Nuclear Talkaoke, 3-7 pm, Friday 14 November 2008, Nicholls and Clarke Building, 3-10 Shoreditch High Street, Spitalfields, London E1
Hosted by The People Speak, the Talkaoke is a mobile chat-show which will allow visitors to comment on the work and the issues around it in an informal and entertaining way.
Nuclear Forum 10am-6pm, Friday 28 November 2008, at The Royal Society of Arts (RSA), 8 John Adam Street, WC2N 6EZ
In partnership with RSA Arts & Ecology, Arts Catalyst and SCAN present a forum exploring the impact of nuclear power in art and culture. Prominent artists, writers and experts discuss their work and engagement with the issues around nuclear energy, from Hiroshima through the 50s' white heat of technology and the Cold War nuclear tensions to present day energy debates.
James Acord, artist and 'nuclear sculptor'
Keith Barnham (Imperial College)
Paul Dorfman (Warwick University), expert on nuclear consultation and radioactivity risks,
Kate Hudson (LSBU), chair of CND and editor of the journal Contemporary Politics
Kyp Kyprianou & Simon Hollington,artists
Steve Kurtz, artist and activist, Critical Art Ensemble (by video link)
Gustav Metzger, artist and activist, founder of Auto-Destructive Art
Chris Oakley, artist
Pam Skelton, artist (Central St Martins College of Art)
John Wills (Kent University), historian, author of Conservation Fallout, a look at nuclear protest in California
Video and photo archive of The Nightwatchman
Nuclear: art & radioactivity is commissioned and produced by Arts Catalyst with SCAN media arts agency, and in association with RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce) Arts & Ecology. Arts Catalyst and SCAN are funded by Arts Council England.