Category Archives: 3d

Pazugoo, the 3D printed evil spirits of nuclear waste storage

Speculative Demonology as Deep Geological Repository Marking Strategy, 2016. 3D-additive design and printing workshop with invited guests, Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden, 8th-10th November 2016

Part of Nuclear Culture, a curatorial project that brings together visual artists and researchers in humanities to reflect on issues related to the nuclear, looks at how we can communicate the presence of a radioactive waste disposal site across hundreds or even thousands of generations.

Some of the artists involved in this complex inquiry have imagined various strategies to communicate the presence of radioactive material around us over a period of time that extend beyond human temporality. Thomson & Craighead, for example, created Temporary Index, a totem that acts as a counter for representing the decay rate of nuclear waste products and as a signpost, mapping the distance between its location and the nearest radioactive waste facility. Meanwhile, Erich Berger and Mari Keto‘s INHERITANCE jewellery set brings the issue of the slow decay of radioactive material into a domestic setting.

Andy Weir, Pazu-goo: 3D Printed Deep Geological Repository Marker for a Future Posthuman Palaeoarcheologist (c.700 BC—4.6 x 109 AD). Image courtesy the artist.

Artist, researcher and writer Andy Weir has chosen a very different avenue.

His Pazugoo project consists of a constellation of collectively modified Pazuzu, the Assyro-Babylonian demon of epidemic and dust. The figurines, which brandish an uranium glow-stick, are created during collaborative workshops using digital 3D object files of scanned museum figures which are edited and 3D printed. The work envisions that the Nylon 12 mini statues will then be encased in clay tablets and flushed into local water supplies, perhaps later discovered as artefacts, or left to slowly degrade and form new molecular configurations through ingestion and drift. Once they have been thrown away, the figurines will live the enduring life of plastic. They will end up in the waste, will crumble into microplastics, will join trillions of other plastic particles into the ocean where they might find their way into the bodies of marine organisms. Which we might eventually consume. If ever humans still inhabit the earth when that might happen.

As Weir wrote in the essay Deep Decay – Into Diachronic Polychromatic Material Fictions, the Pazugoo figures, once they have been scattered into the landscape, become an “anti-marker”:

The anti-marker focuses on leakage, non-containment and the speculative potential of future transformations of humans in dynamic relation and alliance with other entities across scales. This is practised not as metaphor or sign, but through its own performative materiality, drifting from dump to sea, navigating from local sites towards a universal ungrounding current of deep time.

By anchoring the (anti)marker in mythology, Weir points to future radioactive menaces that are as intangible, as powerful and as eluding as the dust and viruses brought about by Pazuzu.

As markers of deep geological repositories, the figurines also seem to echo the superstitions and irrational beliefs that accompany our understanding of the underground world.

Pazugoo is currently part of the exhibition Nuclear Culture presents: Perpetual Uncertainty at Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium. I caught up with the artist and asked him to tell us more about Pazugoo:

Speculative Demonology as Deep Geological Repository Marking Strategy, 2016. 3D-additive design and printing workshop with invited guests, Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden, 8th-10th November 2016

Hi Andy! Why do you think that tiny figurines of Assyrian-Babylonian demons have the power to speak to future generations? Rather than a more abstract sign or the usual symbols of dangers we use nowadays?

I’m very curious about the way you propose to communicate the presence of radioactive storage sites. Instead of designing a monumental marker, you would lose the figurines in the landscape. How would people in the future find them and make the connection with danger?

My initial interest in the deep geological repository sites was the immense timescales at stake, the way for example that imagination of the 4.46 billion year half life of Uranium-238 became part of a design process.

With the Pazugoo project, then, I was interested to ask what it might mean to consider artwork over these timescales. The buried objects would have a future life of decay, mutation and entanglements with the surrounding environmental materials, over hundreds, thousands, millions of years, in a way very different to the usual timescale of an exhibition.

Pazugoo is based on mutative iterations of Pazuzu, demon of dust and contagion, and in this case is invoked as a navigator through deep time.

The work, in this sense, parasites on the temporal context of nuclear storage. Rather than proposing a direct form of communication with future generations, it suggests more of a material thought experiment, opening to a future out of my control, and infecting thought now.

On the other hand, the models do also communicate through their relation to an ‘index-Pazugoo’, which I am currently developing for the next stage of the exhibition in Malmo. As part of the museum collection, this will act as a marker for the buried objects. I’m interested in how this uses the museum exhibition as a kind of refractive indexing (the model is there as reference to the distributed Pazugoos), focal point for the work’s loosening into the surrounding environment.

Speculative Demonology as Deep Geological Repository Marking Strategy, 2016. 3D-additive design and printing workshop with invited guests, Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden, 8th-10th November 2016

Speculative Demonology as Deep Geological Repository Marking Strategy, 2016. 3D-additive design and printing workshop with invited guests, Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden, 8th-10th November 2016

Speculative Demonology as Deep Geological Repository Marking Strategy, 2016. 3D-additive design and printing workshop with invited guests, Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden, 8th-10th November 2016

When your work was exhibited at Bildmuseet in Umea, Sweden, you organised workshops in which participants 3D printed glitched Pazu-goo models. Why glitch the figurines? And according to what logic?

Following on from thinking about the models as objects in the earth, I became interested in their qualities less in terms of monumental signification, but more in terms of their material plasticity. I became interested in particular plastics, in other words, as a kind of synthetic-natural hybrid deep time connector between distilled and polymered fossilised remains and contemporary plastiglomerate relics. At the same time, I was thinking about the 3D printer as a technology to distribute and propagate pollution as future relic-making (I consider burying the models a kind of ‘critical pollution’ strategy). The glitch in this case comes simply from retaining the machine-produced plastic effects in excess of the original designs (the oily molten drip made solid, for example) usually removed in the finishing of models. I keep it to draw critical attention to the objects as plastic and as a self-aware reference to its own design process. It emphasises these demons as material plastic objects as well as ritualistic navigational figures. It’s also another way that the aesthetics of the work develops at tangents to my agency, through workshops, through the morphology and through the machine.

Andy Weir, Pazugoo, 2017. Exhibition view at Z33

Andy Weir, Pazugoo, 2017. Exhibition view at Z33

Would the figurines be thrown in the landscape following some specific rituals?

This is an interesting question, as it is a part of the project I haven’t developed yet. Yes, I think they will. I hope there is some scope for collaborative performative action with nuclear agencies here.

Andy Weir, Pazugoo, 2017. Exhibition view at Z33

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Three saints fresco featuring Santa Barbara (detail showing, 1471-72. Photo

The work is currently on show at Z33 in Hasselt and, once again, you modified the little demon but this time the changes were inspired by Saint Barbara. Could you tell us the story behind this religious figure and why you chose to work with it?

I came across Santa Barbara as the patron Saint of miners when I saw a figure displayed in a glass vitrine on my visit to the H.A.D.E.S research laboratory in Mol, Belgium. I later discovered that a similar figure is on display at the entrance to deep geological repositories around the world (and tunnels more generally), touched for protection by miners. It is evidence of a rich shared contemporary mythical culture around the sites, which I see my Pazugoo project in dialogue with. Engineering, myth and futurology are intimately entwined. I liked the image of a mythic underground connection through ritualistically protected tunnels, in a strange balance with Pazugoo’s airborne flight driven by an excess of wings. Barbara also morphs, becoming, for example Yansan, orisha of wind, in Candomble, crusher of the patriarchal will in Ghirlandaio’s 15th Century frescoes, and also apparently the inspiration for Barbiturates.

Do you see Pazu-goo as an ever-evolving figure and project? Are there more steps and manifestations coming up?

Yes very much so, I mentioned above the development of the project for the next stage of Perpetual Uncertainty in Malmo. For this I plan further prototypes for burial and the index marker. Discussions around the work are an important part of it for me and I’ll be taking part in a roundtable discussion as part of the Z33 exhibition soon. I’ve also been making some new diagrams which I’m publishing as part of a collaborative project on ‘the contemporary’. I will work next on the burial ritual, some new sound work, and other production/ distribution/ reformulation strategies (including algorithmically produced objects). Pazugoo continues to drift.

Andy Weir’s figurines are lined up on the mantelpiece, at the back of the photo. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken

Could you tell us also about the short field recordings you made in 4 different deep geological repositories in Europe and the USA? It’s interesting that you didn’t use a visual language back then. How do you get authorization to make the recordings on these sites? And what is it that the listener can perceive exactly, apart from ambient sound?

Yes, this actually returns in the video in the Z33 exhibition, where the sound is composed from the noise of the lift descending into and ascending from the H.A.D.E.S lab. I’m also returning to sound in some current work, from a different perspective, around sonification as futurology. When I first researched and visited the sites, I was interested in the processes of projection, pre-emption and modelling alongside this mass of radioactive stuff that is there as hidden driving agency of the whole project. I approached this through playing with modes of fictionalisation. Recording, archiving and distributing ambient sound was proposed as a ‘sonic fiction’ as angle of approach to deep time. This drew on histories of hyperstition as bringing about reality through fiction, and reflected on the complex temporality of the sites, extending beyond and looping back to human experience. The idea was not so much that the listener would perceive something as catch something! This led to further play with ideas of contagion, and the emergence of the figure of Pazuzu (demon of dust and contagion) as ritual navigator through deep time, which loops back to your first question.

Thanks Andy!

For more background about Andy Weir’s research, check out Deep Decay – Into Diachronic Polychromatic Material Fictions, an essay he wrote for Z33 research blog.

Nuclear Culture presents: Perpetual Uncertainty is at Z33 in Hasselt until 10 December 2017. Entrance is free.

More photos from the exhibition on Z33 flickr set and on mine.

Perpetual Uncertainty is produced by Bildmuseet, Umeå and curated by Ele Carpenter with the support of Z33 and Arts Catalyst London.

Related stories: Perpetual Uncertainty. Inhabiting the atomic age, Sonic Radiations. A nuclear-themed playlist commissioned by Z33 for the exhibition and The Nuclear Culture Source Book.

Design and Violence. Part 1: ambiguous violence

Gregory Green, Untitled (2 Remote-Controlled Gas Bombs), 2005. At Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin

Zip Gun, at Science Gallery Dublin

Sako, Green Bullets at Science Gallery Dublin

One of the things i’ve learnt from the Design and Violence exhibition at Science Gallery in Dublin is that violence can be found almost everywhere. It can be as sophisticated as the result of genetic manipulation, or as simple as a sweatshirt with a few letters printed on it. It can be ordered online for a couple of euros or it can be a lavishly designed work of architecture. It can be recognizable by everyone or it can be so subtle and elusive that it remains undetected by most people.

DESIGN AND VIOLENCE, a show that explores the pervasiveness of violence in society, started as an online experiment at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is now taking a life of its own at Science Gallery Dublin. The exhibition explores the collision of design and violence through dozens of artworks, props, artifacts and videos. I spent a whole afternoon there and came back the day after to spend more time with the few works i had not properly examined on my first visit. Every single piece exhibited has a fascinating story to tell and can also act as the catalyst for an intense discussion (both the fantastic guide at the Science Gallery and i were intellectually exhausted after my tour of the show!)

I’ll start my review of DESIGN AND VIOLENCE with a post dedicated to works that kept my brain busy long after i had left Dublin. What they all have in common is that their design and violence are ambiguous. They start with what looks like a laudable impulse, only in the most ruthless context possible: rice that feeds hungry populations but pollutes the environment with pesticides, a brutal weapon that causes pain but not so much pain that it will kill, animal welfare in slaughterhouses, and other oxymoron.

Sako, Green Bullets at Science Gallery Dublin

Perhaps the artifacts that illustrates the point with the most simplicity and clarity are the environmentally-friendly bullets. A Finnish firearm manufacturer uses copper instead of lead to ensure that the bullets will kill you but without contaminating the food chain or water supply. Is this cynical or praiseworthy?

Temple Grandin, Serpentine Ramp, 1974. At Science Gallery Dublin

Temple Grandin, Serpentine Ramp, 1974. At Science Gallery Dublin

Temple Grandin, Design of Curved Cattle Corrals, Yards, Races, and Chutes

Then the example of design i can’t make up my mind about is the one that guarantees that animals are killed as humanely as possible before they are turned into fast food products. Whatever humanely means in this context…

Temple Grandin is an animal rights activist and a scientist. She is opposed to violence against animals but believes that since people are not going to stop eating meat any time soon, they might as well ensure that animals suffer as little as possible. Having observed and studied animal behaviour, Grandin corrected the design of slaughterhouses to ensure that cattle don’t panic and make the slaughter business even more awful.

Her designs include a serpentine ramp that leads cows into the stunning chute. Its serpentine shape is based on cattle’s natural circling behaviour and tendency to want to go back where they came from. It also prevents the animals from being stressed by the sight of workers up ahead.

Is Grandin’s design ‘humane’ or is it complicit in the mass murder of animals? Is she championing animal welfare reform in the cattle industry from the inside out or is she giving the industry and the meat eaters an excuse to continue killing pigs, cows, chicken and sheep without much concerns for the rights of non human animals?

Rice Today Vol.5 No.4 page 38 Breeding history.part of the image collection of the  International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
International Rice Reasearch Insitute, IR8. IR8 pictured next to its parents, “Peta,” a tall, vigorous variety from Indonesia, and the Taiwanese dwarf variety “DGWG.” 2009. Image IRRI

First produced in 1966 by the International Rice Research Institute, the IR8, or ‘miracle rice’, was genetically modified to increase its yield and respond to the food crisis. However, its cultivation necessitates the use of high amounts of nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, and intensive irrigation. The social and ecological effects of the Green Revolution of the first half of the 20th century are high and their extent has yet to be fully grasped.

Defense Distributed, Liberator, 2013. At Science Gallery Dublin

The Liberator is not the most efficient weapon but that might not even be the point. What this 3D-printed gun really excels at is forcing people to question the dazzling promises of technology. 3D printing used to be this democratizing technology that would enable us to innovate and manufacture easily, cheaply, from the comfort of our own home. And 3D printing is still a wonderfully liberating technology. But it is also one that comes with more plastic, more harmful air emissions, more patents that stifle independent innovation, etc. As well as print as you want weapons.

Invoking civil liberties -in particular the right to free speech- and challenging our acceptance of information censorship, Defense Distributed created a polymer .380 caliber gun 3D printed in 16 pieces, now known as ‘The Liberator.’ The weapon’s files were made available online so that anyone with access to a 3D printer could fabricate a firearm. Or twelve. Although government authorities in the United States (a country that certainly doesn’t need more guns) shut down its distribution almost immediately, the code for the Liberator has already been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

One of the reasons put forward for banning The Liberator (or rather the computer code behind its fabrication) is that it doesn’t set off a metal detector. “Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser.”

Defense Distributed is currently involved in a court case arguing for the code’s distribution as an example of free speech.

Michael Madsen, Halden Prison (designed by Erik Møllet and HLM Architects), Halden, Norway

Michael Madsen, Halden Prison (designed by Erik Møllet and HLM Architects), Halden, Norway

Michael Madsen, Halden Prison (extract of the film), Halden, Norway

There’s no life sentence in Norway, the longest period of time a convict can spend in prison is 21 years. It is thus in the interest of the country that the prison system focuses on rehabilitation and ensures that an inmate goes back in the community as a better person. The strategy seems to pay as, nationwide, Norway has one of the lowest recidivism rates in Europe, just 20% after two years, compared with around 50% in England.

Regarded as the most humane prison in the world, Halden Prison is a maximum-security prison located in the middle of a forest in the South of Norway. There are no bars on the windows and prisoners are not locked up during the day. They have individual cells with tv and a private bathroom.

During the day, inmates work or study and are encouraged to have a hobby, whether it’s knitting, playing football, being in a band or cooking pasta. Guards don’t carry weapons and are incited to eat meals, play sport and otherwise interact with the prisoners as often as possible to create a sense of community. The prison even has an art budget.

There is also a wooden house with garden for prisoners to host their families overnight.

Nevertheless, it is still a prison where men are deprived of their liberty.

Jack Kevorkian, Thanatron, at Science Gallery Dublin

Jack Kevorkian, Thanatron, at Science Gallery Dublin

The Thanatron (‘death machine’ in Greek) was devised by medical pathologist Jack Kevorkian, to help terminally ill people end their lives peacefully.

The system is constructed out of household tools, toy parts and other bits and pieces easy to find in supermarkets and online.

The first step of Thanatron is an intravenous drip of saline solution. Then the patient presses press a button that releases a dose of an anesthetic called thiopental with a 60-second timer. The patient then slips into a deep coma, at which point the Thanatron injects a lethal dose of potassium chloride, a solution used in Belgium and the Netherlands for the purpose of euthanasia as well as in 34 states of the U.S. for lethal injection procedures. The drug stops the heart so that the patient dies of a heart attack while asleep.


The final piece of design which purpose i find questionable is the Taser. Employed by employed by the police and private security firms, the weapon fires two small dart-like electrodes connected by wires to the main unit, which deliver high-voltage shocks to incapacitate a person. They cause brutal, extreme pain and their use have caused serious injuries and death. They are even fired at children and elderly people. While causing less harm may seem like wholly a good thing, these types of weapons have the potential to institute a more insidious form of social control, by reducing the public outrage and resistance provoked by the use of weapons that more easily maim and kill.

(To be continued…)

Design and Violence is a co-production by the MoMA in New York and Science Gallery Dublin. The show remains open until 22 January 2017.