Category Archives: religion

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.

Teds and clerics


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. Feburary 2009. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at Oratorio St Pietro. Goal keeper for Redemptoris Mater.

The Clericus Cup is a Vatican-backed football tournament that takes place every year in Rome. Most players are seminarians studying to be Roman Catholic priests. A few are ordained priests. The first cup took place in 2007. Two years later, photographer Chris Steele-Perkins flew to the Italian capital and documented the tournament. The fans of each team were so enthusiastic that complaints were lodged by residents near the grounds about the noise being made by Africa supporters playing loud Reggae, American supporters shouting “Come on you Knackers, kick some caboose,” Italian supporters using megaphones and Mexican supporters banging drums.

I discovered the photo series (and the existence of the competition) last week while i was visiting the exhibition L’Italia di Magnum. Da Henri Cartier-Bresson a Paolo Pellegrin at CAMERA in Turin. I wouldn’t normally associate catholic priests with kicking a ball around a surface of grass. As for Steel-Perkins, i associated his name with one of my favourite photos series ever made (maybe that’s just my admiration for the fashion style that’s speaking here): The Teds. Because the sporty priests surprised me (they have the most abominable trophy ever created) and the teddy boys and girls charm me no end, i’m going to just copy/paste below a few images from both series before continuing on my merry day.


Chris Steele-Perkins, Southend Promenade, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum Photos


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at Oratorio St Pietro. Seminario Gallico players warm up


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. Feburary 2009. Vatican. Seminary students (trainee priests) at the North American College, who field one of the competing teams, the North American Martyrs, members of the team practice before mass. Putting balls away.


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. Feburary 2009. Vatican. Seminary students (trainee priests) at the North American College, who field one of the competing teams, the North American Martyrs, members of the team practice before mass. John Solmon


Italy. Rome. May 2009. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at St Paolo College. Finals and play off for 3rd place. Finalsts Redemptoris Mater supporters sing before the game.


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. Feburary 2009. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at Oratorio St Pietro. A priest gives half time talk to team Almo Pio-Capranica.


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. May 2009. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at St Paolo College. Finals and play off for 3rd place. Before the game Redemptoris Mater captain in yellow, accepts present from North American Martyrs captain of a Madona, Redemptoris Mater beat North American Martyrs 1-0


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. Feburary 2009. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at Oratorio St Pietro. team Guanelliani Internazionale celebrate a goal, but lost on penalties to Guanelliani Internazionale.


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. May 2009. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at St Paolo College. Finals and Redemptoris Mater beat North American Martyrs 1-0. Celebrating in front of fans at the end of the game they toss their coach, Father Simone Bionde in the air.


Italy. Rome. Feburary 2009. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at Oratorio St Pietro. Sedes Sapientiae in orange top, beat Redemptoris Mater in a penalty shootout and celebrate after.


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. May 2009. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at St Paolo College. the odd looking Cup, looks like a Pokemon. © Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photos


Chris Steele-Perkins, Italy. Rome. Vatican. The Clericus Cup. Matches played at St Paolo College. Redemptoris Mater beat North American Martyrs 1-0 in the final. They celebrate with the Clericus Cup

And now for the super snazzy crowd:


Chris Steele-Perkins, Adam and Eve pub in Hackney. London, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum Photos


Chris Steele-Perkins, ‘Sunglasses’ Ron Staples, self-acclaimed King of the Teds. London, England, Great Britain. 1975. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum Photos


Chris Steele-Perkins, Teds. London, England, GB. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum Photos


Chris Steele-Perkins, Red Deer. Croydon, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum Photos

L’Italia di Magnum. Da Henri Cartier-Bresson a Paolo Pellegrin is at CAMERA in Turin until 21st May 2017.

Andres Serrano. Uncensored photographs

A few weeks ago i took advantage of a long morning in Brussels to visit Andres Serrano. Uncensored photographs at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts.

Uncensored photographs | Andres Serrano

I’ve always liked the work of Serrano. A lot. It’s outrageous, in your face and enjoyably iconoclastic. Portraits of the Ku Klux Klan leaders, close-up of Trump trying his best to look ‘deep’, plastic crucifix immersed into urine, bondage scenes, decaying corpses at the morgue… Shit. His images would be merely anecdotic if they were not also carefully shot, framed, lit and composed.

The exhibition at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts made me realize that until now i had paid the wrong kind of attention to his work. Blinded by the scandalous aura of the images, i had overlooked the compassionate look at society, the deep concern for humanity that a closer inspection reveals. With his portraits of imperfect individuals, Serrano doesn’t judge, he draws a portrait of our deeply flawed society.

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Andress Serrano, Killed by Four Great Danes, 1992. From the series The Morgue

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Andres Serrano, Blood and Semen V

In an attempt to explain why they chose to present works that caused controversy, criticism and physical attacks, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium wrote:

To show Serrano means to assert our basic values. Against barbarism and intolerance. Against obscurantism and inhumanity.

I wasn’t expecting to like this retrospective so much. Even the audioguide was not boring. Cunningly, the curator asked Serrano to talk directly about his photos. So that’s all you hear in the audioguide: the voice of the photographer telling you about his experiences, how he met the people he worked with, the challenges he encountered, the motivations behind the images. I could have listened to him for hours.

If you can’t make it to Brussels before the show closes (soon! on 21 August!) then check out this very small selection of the works on show. Most of the little texts underneath are quotes taken from Serrano’s descriptions of his work.

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Andres Serrano, Klanswoman Grand Klaliff II, 1990

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Andres Serrano, Klansmen (Knight Hawk Of Georgia of The Invisible Empire IV) 1990 © Andres Serrano, Courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris/Brussels, THE KLAN SERIES

“The fact that i’m not white made it a bigger challenge, as well as the scandal of Piss Christ made me a natural enemy of the Klan. It was a challenge for them to agree to be photographer by somebody who embodied everything the Klan was against. It was difficult and risky too. Some people saw it as a provocation. Perhaps, but these photographs are first of all a confrontation, the desire to look them in the eye and represent them, because i regard the Klan as the outsider and I am an outsider myself. Aside from our antagonism, this similarity interested me.”

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Andres Serrano, Hacked to Death II, 1992. From the series The Morgue

“The Morgue is a place built up around the human body, which is always present. Each photograph works as a portrait, all the stronger because of its singularity. First thing is that I wanted to protect the identity of the people. That’s why they are masked. Using close-up and focusing on details gives their individual qualities more expression. As well as the human being still present, these details symbolize death, sometimes horrible and violent barbaric, sometimes cunning and peaceful.”

Hacked to Death, from the Morgue series, is the portrait of a man killed by his wife. Even though he was stabbed twenty-three times, I was struck by the strong presence of this model, as encapsulated by this wide-open eye staring at the viewer. I felt a sort of threat similar to that of the guns in Objects of Desire. We look at the photograph but it stares back at us. It erects something against us and confronts us. This is an important aspect of my work.”

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Andres Serrano, Infection Pneumonia, 1992. From the series The Morgue

“For me, the body of the model in Infectious Pneumonia is like classical painting. That’s how it appeared to me. I never touched any of the bodies I photographed in the mortuary. The sense of drapery and the timelessness of form striving for ideal perfection find singular resolution through connection, as the title indicates, to death 26 through illness, an internal process that attacked the body itself. The classical ideal is asserted and destroyed by its own built-in obsolescence. Its end is inside it.”

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Andres Serrano, Rat Poison Suicide II, 1992. From the series The Morgue

Talking about Rat Poison Suicide: “In this photograph, the initial perception from a distance presents a sort of eroticism through the lighting, the velvety material and the sensuality of the skin. But it’s a dead body. The eye doesn’t realize this at first and the image tells us something different from what it is. What the title tells us with the objectivity of the cause of death. Sometimes painful, as in the case of these children, who seem to be asleep and who died of pneumonia or meningitis.”

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Andres Serrano, Colt D.A. 45, 1992, from the series Objects of Desire

“The title of this series comes from the Buñuel film That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). I’m a big fan of his work. Having to work in New Orleans, I focused on the weapons that circulate there freely and everything a hand gun can mean as a psychic substitute. There I met gun collectors − men, never women − who treat these weapons like works of art, who respect them, admire them and covet them. The guns I photographed were all loaded. The desire was also a threat. I like the idea of looking death in the eye, of facing danger.”

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Andres Serrano, Piss Christ, 1987 © Andres Serrano, Courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris/Brussels, IMMERSIONS SERIES

“As a Catholic, i was brought up in the love of Christ, where divinity and humanity, ideal and sacrifice, purity and poverty are mixed. And so it seemed natural to me to immerse a crucifix in urine and call it Piss Christ. This photograph isn’t sacrilegious or blasphemous for me.

Crucifixion is a terrible torture, an act of cruelty that is always present. This small object that is so familiar to us, that we pray and touch with love, do we still see the horror it represents. My Piss Christ is a Christian work, a devotional work in the most traditional sense.”

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Andres Serrano, Black Supper, 1990

“Taken in 1990, Black Supper is the last of the Immersions. I had arrived at the end of a road and I hesitated over this subject. Unlike the other Immersions, I used water. Bubbles formed accidentally, making it hard to see the subject. They give the polyptych this unreal, fairytale effect. These five photographs are not one image cut up but five different, separate shots that can form a bigger whole.”

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Andres Serrano, Roberts & Luca vandalized

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The History of Sex. View of the exhibition space in Brussels

A room separated by heavy black curtains from the main galleries shows works form the series History of Sex. Some of them had been vandalized in 2007 in Lund (Sweden) by a group of masked neo-Nazi. The attack was part of a campaign to protest against decadence and “degenerate art”, a term used by the Nazi regime in the 1930 to condemn virtually all modern art.

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Andres Serrano, Fool’s Mask IV,Hever Castle, England (from the series Torture), 2015

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Andres Serrano, XXVI-1, 2015. © Andres Serrano, Courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris/Brussels, Torture series

“When I did the Torture series, my latest, I had a very strange feeling because I had to act as the torturer and at the same time empathise with the victim. Again, there is the duality: suffering and violence, sacrifice and inhumanity, the torturer and the tortured. The objects all are real and authentic, used to inflict cruelty through history. I found them all over Europe and they remind us of what human beings can do to other human beings. In a sense it is like the other side of Piss Christ, the side of violence and cruelty. With regard to the subjects, some bear direct testimony and others are actors taking part in a tableau vivant.”

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Andres Serrano, Kevin Hannaway. From the series ‘The Hooded Men’

Part of a series of photos showing 4 hooded men. Behind the hoods are real members of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) arrested by the British police in the 1970s and held in isolation, hooded all the time. The ordeal lasted years for some of them. Serrano met 4 of these men and asked if he could photograph them in the hoods. Now old, they agreed because the hoods have become an inseparable part of their martyrdom despite the years.

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Andres Serrano, Ahmed Osoble, 2015. From the Denizens of Brussels series

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts sent Serrano in the streets of Brussels and he came back with Denizens of Brussels, a very moving series portraying people living and sleeping in the streets of the capital.

Andres Serrano, Denizens of Brussels

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Andres Serrano, The Other Christ, 2001

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Andres Serrano, Lucas Suarez, Homeless, 2002. From the series America

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Andres Serrano, Cross

Andres Serrano. Uncensored photographs is at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels until 21 August 2016.