[-empyre-] Chernobyl Project


Thanks to Tim and Renate for the invitation and for the introduction. I am very glad to take part in this very active discussion. Sorry for taking a little while to post this statement. Please excuse my “weird English”.

I agree with Maurice, for sure, that “criticality” belongs to very nature of any artistic engagement, in general. I was then wondering how “critical spatial practice” would particularly relate to my ongoing work, the “Chernobyl Project”, and it seems to me that it is in the very base of the work, as it attempts to produce critical specific images of a very critical space, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, in Belarus. The Chernobyl zone is, indeed, critical in many different layers - from an ecological and technological to a humanitarian point of view. This critical space is not one that easily lets its images be created, as the question of “visibility” is also central here. But, at first, I should state a brief description:

The Chernobyl Project is based on issues related to radiation in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, especially on the Byelorussian side. Its aim is to produce radiographic images of the zone, exposed through the very radiation that has intoxicated this “space”. In order to make this happen, we are testing two different techniques: a specially designed led pinhole camera that is totally closed to light and “sees” invisible gamma radiation. We are also working on another technique for imprinting invisible gamma radiation emitted by contaminated matter: the direct contact between an appropriate radiographic film and the right radioactivity energy level. In both techniques, the invisible, high-level gamma radiation present in the exclusion zone is the only source of film exposure. It will produce images of the "invisible". Images of a certain kind of energy present in this space and yet totally invisible except for the destruction traces it leaves behind.

How to look at a very intriguing place, the exclusion zone, in a specific way, specific to that place? A deserted, abandoned zone. Empty, yet filled with something invisible. I thought about what had happened there. This evil energy, where was it, where were its traces? Is it possible to sense it, to touch the immaterial, the invisible? It crossed my mind that this vast “waste ground” had become a place where this invisible matter could not be contained any longer. The “Chernobyl Project” attempts to make this visible. Visibility / invisibility is our core concept. Physical visibility - considering that we are developing techniques to “see” the invisible, to see an invisible matter; but also social-political visibility, considering that even though the reactor is across the border, in Ukraine, contamination is at higher levels in Belarus, a country that is even less socially visible than its neighbor. Globally, the public opinion and the European countries fail to recognize, let alone address, this problem. Something that was not only a traumatic event in the past - it is a current, urgent situation, and it will continue to be for hundred of years.

Finally, getting back to the focus of our discussion here, the question that the Chernobyl Project asks is how to critically look at a critical space. That’s the first layer. Further on, I would also like to comment a second layer: in producing an account of this process, in the form of an online journal posted at a blog (http:// www.jblog.com.br/chernobyl2.php) I was also confronted with the question of transfiguring this quest to the form a virtual space. It begins like this:

“This blog starts with the beginning of a journey. It will present simultaneously a journal of my travels and the creative process of the work. My destination is the exclusion zone of Chernobyl. I will be leaving in a week to Belarus, for the first contact with the exclusion zone, which is right on the border between Belarus and Ukraine.
To step into somewhere called “exclusion zone” presents, in itself, a problem. I hope you will be interested in joining me on the way as it unravels. The posts will, by and by, shape the virtual space here initiated.
Bill Viola, the pope of video art, has published his working journal entitled Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House. I thought: there are many reasons for knocking on the doors of a ghost city, on the doors of an excluded, deserted zone. What is this place? What happens there? How could I generate specific images of a place devastated by an extensive but invisible energy, only noticeable through its tracks of destruction?
With luck, after bumping many times on corners, edges, traces of unidentified things, it might be viable to find and turn on a switch somewhere that in shedding light in the room might connect the dots. To work!”

Thinking that this whole endeavor is a leap into the unknown, into a negative space, into something that comes to being, to a form, as we look, the idea was to shape the virtual space of the blog as the works develops. To begin with, by an active appropriation of the general default form of blogs, developing post by post, but also in making that these posts, being written white on a totally black background, are the only orientation marks a visitor come across with to guide himself, little by little, in this virtual space, as a “cybernetic stalker”.

Hopefully, the discussion of Chernobyl Project in relation to “critical space practices” will interest you. I would be very glad to take it further.
Thank you.


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