Category Archives: Z33

Shoot the Women First

“Shoot the women first!”, a German official is reported to have advised in the 1980s when members of GSG-9, Germany’s elite anti-terror squad found themselves in front of a large group of people suspected of being terrorists. Eileen MacDonald used the order as the title of the study of female terrorists she wrote in 1991. Navine G. Khan-Dossos, in turn, borrows it for an exhibition that looks at the theme of female targets.


Navine G. Khan-Dossos at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research


Navine G. Khan-Dossos painted in pink one of the walls at the entrance of Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo:

For Shoot the Women First, her solo exhibition at Z33 in Hasselt, the artist recreated a shooting range. Paintings in soft colours are hanging on the wall and from the ceiling. The first ones you encounter carry symbols similar to the type of targets used in Discretionary Command training. During those police and military trainings, shooters receive a chain of commands which require them to shoot at triangles, circles and squares of various colours in a certain order.

As you walk through the exhibition space, the reference to a body become less abstract and you soon recognize human shapes on the paintings. The exhibition is choreographed so that your body comes in close proximity of the targets, making the experience feel somewhat ominous and almost visceral.


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Pink Discretionary Command, 2018 at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Pink Discretionary Command, 2018 at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Pink Discretionary Command, 2018 at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research

All the works in the series feature the colour pink. Not any type of pink but the particular shade of pink used to paint the doorways of brothels in the Metaxourgeio neighbourhood of Athens.

The area was the theater of police brutality against women in 2012 when a group of drug-users were arrested and forced to undergo HIV tests. It was assumed that the women were prostitutes. They were imprisoned on charges of grievous bodily harm for transmitting the virus through sex work. Most of these women had never worked as prostitutes and were not even aware they were HIV-positive. The violence towards them didn’t end there. The police published their mug-shots and personal data on their website and the images spread from there to major TV channels and other media. Eventually the charges were dropped, but some of these women struggled to recover from this experience of incarceration and public shaming.


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Grey Discretionary Command, 2018 at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Grey Discretionary Command, 2018 at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research

Being diagnosed with HIV meant that, for the authorities, the body of these women epitomized deviance and bio-terrorism. They were both a danger and a target, both victims of society and perpetrators of sexual disorder. The colour pink in the paintings is thus not one that evokes innocence and romanticism but violence, violation of privacy and HIV criminalization.

Khan-Dossos managed to give a presence to these women without ever using the humiliating mugshots that had been shared online and in the Greek mainstream media.

Shoot the Women First demonstrates that it is possible to use abstract forms to convey a poignant narrative, to talk about violence without using explicit images. Perhaps, that’s the smartest way to do it now that images of violence are so commonplace online that we barely register them.

The work doesn’t address only the fate of these women but also the one of other marginalized bodies. The pink triangles in some paintings allude to the rise of AIDS activism, and in particular ACT UP’s SILENCE = DEATH posters. The work also refers to the militarization of the US police and their use of lethal weapons against civilians. And in general, the harassment of women worldwide which, as recent stories like the Ligue du LOL in France and the Spanish far-right parties pushing back against gender equality indicate, shows no sign of abating. Not even in 21st Century EU.

While writing this review, i also couldn’t stop thinking about 19 year old Shamima Begum. In 2015, she was an English schoolgirl who left her family to join the so-called Islamic State. We don’t know whether she committed crimes while in Syria. The United Kingdom has nevertheless decided to revoke her citizenship and the young woman now sits in a Syrian refugee camp with her newborn son. A few days ago, a shooting range in north-west England has made headlines for using a photo of her face as a target, following “a large number of requests from customers.”


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Bulk Targets 1-100, 2018. Opening at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Bulk Targets 1-100, 2018. At Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research

One room features heaps of gouaches on cardboard, ‘Bulk Targets 1-100’. The shape and number also refer to the target models for training. The vast number of these works on a humble material suggests their throw-away use, the sheer banality of violence. On the other hand, they also hint at the possibility that we can make them ours and train as an army that would fight against the demonization of vulnerable people.

The exhibition also features one of Khan-Dossos’ motifs: a standard forensic ruler that runs the walls of the exhibition rooms and transforms the gallery into a crime scene. Crime investigators use forensic rulers to facilitate photographic documentation of evidence at crime scenes. Its title, Below the Belt, evokes not only the unfair and slightly cowardly practices that often accompanies gender politics but also the physical and metaphorical site of domestic violence and control.


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Silent Latitude (detail) and Below the Belt (detail), 2018 at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Silent Latitude, 2018 at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Silent Latitude, 2018. Opening at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research


Navine G. Khan-Dossos, Silent Latitude (detail), 2018 at Z33 House for Contemporary Art. Photo: Kristof Vrancken Photography and Research

The last work Khan-Dossos is showing in Hasselt is Silent Latitude. This new commission is part of the other exhibition you can visit now at Z33: Dissidence – Quilting Against. Silent Latitude is a quilt designed together with the members of the Greek Trans Support Association in Athens and embroidered with the help of MIA-H Fashion Incubator for Accessories in Hasselt. This “community-made textile” evokes the value of collective labour as a healing and bonding activity, referring to the Beguines, laywomen from the urban middle class who lived together in domestic spaces (such as the ones that house Z33 exhibition spaces), supporting themselves with their labor, outside of male control and without submitting to monastic rule.

Ending the show with the quilt lifts up the spirits. The work points to a more hopeful humanity, one that relies on solidarity to create, defy and resist.

Navine G. Khan-Dossos – Shoot the Women First was curated by Silvia Franceschini. Dissidence – Quilting Against was curated by Ronald Clays. Both exhibitions remain open until 26 May at Z33 – House for contemporary art in Hasselt, Belgium.

Photos of the opening ‘Shoot the Women First’ & ‘Dissidence’.
India Doyle did a fascinating interview with Navine G. Khan-Dossos for Twin back when the artist was showing the first iteration of Shoot the Women first at The Breeder gallery in Athens. Also worth your time: Ruins – Chronicle of an HIV witch-hunt, a documentary directed by Zoe Mavroudi about the women victims of HIV criminalization in Athens.

Previously: Painting on and painting off ISIS propaganda.

Studio Time: Future Thinking in Art and Design

The pile of books to review at Maison WMMNA gets more intimidating with each passage of the postman but i’m going to face them one at a time. The exciting ones at least. Here’s a publication i enjoyed on my way latest long train trip:

Studio Time: Future Thinking in Art and Design, edited by Jan Boelen, Ils Huygens and Heini Lehtinen.

On amazon UK.

Publisher Black Dog Press writes: The ability to use imagination to envision future needs is crucial in art, design and architecture. Future thinking and making require the capacity to create narratives for near and far futures and to compose proposals to meet the imagined needs of the future. Future-oriented creative practices also require future literacy—understanding the temporal continuum in which future-oriented work is created and being aware of the underlying incentives, motivations and structures of works, commissioned or self-initiated. Similarly, viewing or consuming speculative creative works requires some level of understanding of the context of the works.

Studio Time: Future Thinking in Art and Design approaches these questions with essays from international design and art thinkers, a number of shorter essays and a selection of art, design and architecture projects. The book consists of three parts that each focus on future fictions in art and design from different perspectives: future fictions and imagination in creative practices, future literacy and future ethics. Each part consists of two essays, two reflective contributions from artists and designers and selected projects from practitioners around the world.


Michael Burton, Astronomical Bodies, 2010. Photo: Theo Cook

Because future world-building shouldn’t be left in the hands of corporations, politicians and “trends forecasters”, the Studio Time book investigates the meaningful roles that art and design can play in formulating alternative visions of the future but also (and more importantly) in providing a space for free questioning, debates and encounters. I particularly liked that some of the contributors of the book went even further and looked at the mistakes artists and designers have made in the past (and continue doing) when grappling with their visions for future societies.

Although each of them was invited to write about (roughly) the same topic, the 30 thinkers and makers whose work is featured in the book adopted perspectives different enough to keep the reader absorbed, puzzled and stimulated. From page 1 to page 291.

The essays in the book i found most engaging were the following:

Artist and scientist Angelo Vermeulen teamed up with researcher Caroline Nevejan and Professor Frances Brazier to point out the need for a more inclusive future-thinking that would actively cultivate diversity.

Writer and artist James Bridle wrote about the difficulty for artists of balancing the seductive and the disturbing in dystopian narratives, lest the most aesthetic aspects of these works overshadow the dark sides and eventually seep into the mainstream.

Marina Otero Verzier, an architect, curator and the Director of Research at Het Nieuwe Instituut, made very interesting comments about the future in defense departments and asked whether designers could/should participate to military thinking or altogether reject the association with the military in the name of ethics.

Curator and theorist Louise Schouwenberg commented on the current crisis of the criteria when it comes to distinguishing between the valuable and the valueless in both art and design.

Science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling takes Robinson Crusoe as an entry point to discuss “abject fiction design,” a universe of tragedy, suffering, misery and other inconveniences that design fiction can’t design away but should still grapple with.

In his essay, architect and writer Theo Deutinger charts the ownership of the future. First religions had a monopoly on the future. Later on, people realized that hard facts were more interesting and science grabbed the keys to the future. More recently, the ownership was passed on to big data or rather on to algorithms and their ability to spot patterns in a sea of information. Today, feelings appear to have gained the upper hand.

Curator, writer and researcher Nicola Triscott wrote about co-inquiry, a constantly evolving model that involves curators, artists, scientists and other experts. This interdisciplinary approach to knowledge-production provides space for a fruitful discussion between different groups of people with broadly different viewpoints.


Rotor, Opalis, 2012-2013


Dunne & Raby, Not Here, Not Now, 2014. Exhibition opening at Z33. Photo: Kristof Vrancken

Designers and design thinkers Dunne & Raby explained why they believe that it is important design for the rich spectrum located between the real and the unreal.

Nik Baerten, founder of the design and foresight studio Panopticon, looked at our collective imagination deficit when it comes to picturing ourselves within the post-capitalist post-fossil fuel society we so eagerly desire.

The book is a closing chapter of Studio Future, one of the research studios developed by Z33 House for Contemporary Art in Hasselt, Belgium, to explore various aspects of future-oriented art and design practices.

A big bravo to Joris Kritis and Bernardo Rodrigues for their graphic design work. It’s elegant, calming and efficient.

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.

Perpetual Uncertainty. Inhabiting the atomic age


Susan Schuppli, Trace Evidence (video still), 2016. ©-Polly-Yassin

Nuclear cultures, its promises, dangers and dilemmas, are never far away from media headlines. Sometimes the stories are terrifying (as in Kim and the Donald fighting over the title of “World’s Most Irresponsible Leader”.) Other times, the stories echo events or political choices from the past: radioactive waste that keeps on piling up, toxic legacies of European bomb tests in its African colonies, seaborne radiation from Fukushima nuclear disaster detected on the U.S. West Coast, etc.

Perpetual Uncertainty, an exhibition that opened a few weeks ago at Z33 House for Contemporary Art in Hasselt, reminds us that the nuclear forms the backdrop of our lives, for thousands of generations to come. And even beyond.

The show brings together artists from across Europe, the USA and Japan to investigate experiences of nuclear technology, radiation and the complex relationship between knowledge and deep time.

Perpetual Uncertainty is amazingly informative and stimulating. It helps the public face its anxieties by visualizing every material and immaterial aspect of nuclear technology: the extraction of uranium from the ground, the production of energy, the repercussions of deliberate and accidental explosions and the thorny subject of radioactive waste. Through each of work in the show and each aspect they explore we get to realize how much man-made radiation has transformed our understanding of materiality, knowledge and time.

While the exhibition helps us comprehend what it means to inhabit the atomic, it also leaves space for the impasses and dilemmas that characterizes nuclear culture, a subject which, as we know, still brings far more questions than answers.


Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Courageous, 2016


Suzanne Treister, NATO, 2004-2008. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken

Z33 is an ideal venue for a reflection on nuclear culture. First, because Z33 is a research-based institution that explores the critical perspectives that art, design and architecture can add to the understanding of the contemporary challenges and dilemma that society is facing today.

Furthermore, Z33 is located in Hasselt, Belgium. Now you might not automatically associate Belgium with nuclear blasts. Yet, the country is disturbingly linked to the bombs that were dropped on Japan by the U.S.A. back in 1945. At the time, Belgium had made itself incredibly rich by extracting the mineral resources of its colony, the Belgian Congo. One of the mines was located in Shinkolobwe and had been identified as a source of uranium. The quality of the mineral was so high that it was sold to the U.S. and supplied nearly a large part of the uranium used in the bomb dropped over Hiroshima, and much of the related product of plutonium that went into the one that destroyed Nagasaki.

Here’s a few lines about some of the works in the show:


Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway, Kuannersuit, Kvanefjeld, 2016

Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway, Kuannersuit, Kvanefjeld, 2016


Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway, Kuannersuit, Kvanefjeld, 2016. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway, Kuannersuit, Uranium ore from the experimental mine at Kvanefjeld, 2016. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken

The region of Kvanefjeld in southern Greenland is the site of rich rare earth mineral resources and large deposits of uranium. It is also a place of incredible beauty with unspoiled mountains, wooden houses and deep blue fjords.

Foreign mining companies have shown great interest in Kvanefjeld and a recent relaxation of regulations by the government of Greenland has opened up the possibility of creating an open pit mine there.

Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway spent the summer 2016 traveling in South Greenland, meeting residents, politicians, farmers and government officials and uncovering the deep divisions surrounding the mining project.

For some, the mining activity is a means of gaining autonomy from Denmark and keeping younger generations employed.

However, opponents to the project believe that courting foreign investors amounts to swapping one form of dependency for another, with the added risk of environmental degradation, health hazard for the community and their livestock as well as a threat to traditional ways of living from the land and the sea.

According to environmentalist NGOs, the mining project does not ensure that environmental risks are reduced as much as is practically possible. For example, polluting tailings from the refinery are disposed of in Lake Taseq high up in the Narsaq valley river system. From here, there is a high risk that radioactive isotopes and toxic chemicals will enter the groundwater, rivers, fiords and the sea.

The divisions within the local communities illuminate the dilemmas of our times and underline that the quest for energy and ‘progress’ has trade-offs and costs for society and the whole ecosystem.


Yelena Popova, Unnamed (Video still), 2011

Yelena Popova’s Unnamed video essay combines personal and archival footage to relate the story of her hometown in Russia.

Ozyorsk (codenamed City 40) was a “secret” town, built to accommodate the scientists and technicians of a plutonium factory along with their family. The residents were forbidden from leaving the city or making any contact with the outside world. For decades, this city of 100,000 people did not appear on any maps.

The government went to great lengths to ensure that the city’s occupants would be content with their secluded lives: they enjoyed high quality healthcare and education, generous wages, beautiful buildings and parks as well as well-stoked grocery stores.

The film goes on to reveal how, in 1957, the plant was the site of the Kyshtym nuclear disaster, the third-most serious nuclear accident ever recorded. The Soviet managed to keep the explosion secret for years. It’s only in 1976 that scientist Zhores Medvedev made the nature and extent of the disaster known to the world.

As the film develops, the representation of the disaster becomes a metaphor for the failure of science in the twentieth century and the difficulty to both understand a phenomenon (thus comprehending its details) and knowing it (by being aware of its consequences and significance).

Today, the city of Ozyorsk is still home to most of Russia’s nuclear reserves and people living in the area remain exposed to high levels of radiation.


David Mabb, A Provisional Memorial to Nuclear Disarmament. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


David Mabb, A Provisional Memorial to Nuclear Disarmament. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken

A Provisional Memorial to Nuclear Disarmament combines William Morris fabrics with anti-nuclear symbols and slogans. The association is less arbitrary than it might seem. The British Ministry of Defence used the Morris Tudor Rose print (1883) for over thirty years (from the 1960s through to the 1990s) to furnish the officers’ quarters inside its nuclear submarines.

In 2014, David Mabb visited one of those submarines, the decommissioned HMS Courageous which the public can now visit naval dockyard in Plymouth, on the southwest coast of England.

Famous 19th century socialist Morris would have probably been upset to see his designs used inside instruments of war and violence. Mabb reappropriates Morris’ fabrics and pairs them with anti-nuclear protest signs and slogans from different times and countries.

The works are presented on old-school freestanding projection screens. Distributed over two exhibition rooms, they look like an actual protest march.

As Mabb explained the title of the work in The Bulletin:

The work is called A Provisional Memorial to Nuclear Disarmament.” “Provisional” because Britain’s Conservative government has—despite considerable opposition—decided to go ahead with the commissioning of a new generation of Trident nuclear submarines armed with nuclear missiles. And just last week, it confirmed that it is going to proceed with Hinkley Point, the first nuclear power station to be built in Britain for two decades.


Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead, Temporary Index (Dessel), 2017. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken

Will people in a distant future be aware of radioactive sites? Will they understand the language we try to develop now to warn them of the danger? Thomson and Craighead’s Temporary Index is a totem that marks both time and space.

First, the totem acts as a signpost, mapping the distance between Z33 and the Category A Radioactive Waste Facility to be built at Dessel, 44km from the gallery.

Temporary Index also counts down the seconds that remain before the nuclear waste facility is finally deemed safe for humans. The numbers displayed on the screen are overwhelming. Yet, the radioactive substances they point to have a super short life compared to others. They are low-level radioactive waste that will require ‘only’ 300 years until they no longer represent a threat. Other waste disposal facilities have to provide protection for over hundreds of thousands of years, which far outstrips the understanding that most of us have of time.

Temporary Index, Chernobyl Reactor #4, Ukraine, an earlier version of the Temporary Index, was exhibited at the Perpetual Uncertainty show in Umea last year. It marked the distance from the museum to the Chernobyl reactor and visualized the 20,000 years of radioactive decay necessary for the Ukrainian location to be safe, providing 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.

Isao Hashimoto, 1945-1998 (video still), 2003


Isao Hashimoto, 1945-1998 (video still), 2003

Isao Hashimoto’s video doesn’t need much explanation. His video plots on a map every single known nuclear test and explosion that took place across the world from 1945 until 1998. 2053 in total. It’s shocking to discover how gaily the UK and France have tested their nuclear weapons in distant territories.


Shimpei Takeda, Trace. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Shimpei Takeda, Trace

Shimpei Takeda used photo-sensitive material to physically expose the traces of radiation present in the samples of the contaminated soils he collected throughout the landscape surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

He used no camera for the photographic process. He simply placed the radioactive soils on photo-sensitive films in a light-tight container and left them there for a month. Radioactive substances emit radioactivity to expose gelatin halide on the surface of photographic film.

The number and size of the white dots are proportional to the amount of radiation present in the soil.


Shuji Akagi, Decontamination of My Yard, Fukushima City, 2013


Shuji Akagi, Fukushima City, 2011-2017. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken

Since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011, Shuji Akagi has been documenting the changes his hometown is going through. Most of his images feature big plastic blue or green bags and tarps. They seem to be everywhere: in the streets, in the fields, in people’s backyard, etc. They are filled with contaminated soil. In his photos you also see how people have resumed their daily life. Only now they have to navigate around the plastic-wrapped manifestation of invisible radiation.

It has been estimated that the decontamination process could take more than 100 years.

More works and images from the exhibition:


Dave Griffiths, Deep Field (UnclearZine), 2016. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Dave Griffiths, Deep Field (UnclearZine), 2016. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Eva and Franco Mattes, The Last Film, 2016. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Ken & Julie Yonetani, Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations, 2013. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Robert Williams and Bryan McGovern Wilson, Cumbrian Alchemy, 2013. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Exhibition view of Perpetual Uncertainty at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Cécile Massart, Laboratoires, 2013. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Cécile Massart, Colours of Danger for Belgian High-Level Radioactive Waste, 2017. Exhibition view at Z33. Photo by Kristof Vrancken


Kota Takeuchi, Take Stone Monuments Twice, 2013-2016


Kota Takeuchi, Take Stone Monuments Twice, 2013-2016. Photo via z33 research


Kota Takeuchi, Take Stone Monuments Twice, 2013-2016. Photo via artsy

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: Sonic Radiations. A nuclear-themed playlist commissioned by Z33 for the exhibition and The Nuclear Culture Source Book.

Sonic Radiations. A nuclear-themed playlist

Yesterday i was at Z33 in Hasselt to visit Perpetual Uncertainty, an exhibition that explores “contemporary art in the nuclear anthropocene.”

I had already read The Nuclear Culture Source Book, the publication that accompanies the research and was hoping that the show would be at least as informative and exciting as the book. It certainly delivered and i’ll get back to you with aenthusiastic report as soon as i’m back home. In the meantime, i’d like to share with you the decidedly bizarre but very enjoyable nuclear-themed playlist commissioned by Z33 to Micha Volders and Tim Geelen from Meteor Musik.


William Onyeabor, Atomic Bomb, 1978


Black Moth Super Rainbow, Radiation Society, 2016

Sonic Radiations. In search of a nuclear musicology is online for you to enjoy and scratch your head. The compilation is pretty eclectic. Among the tracks you’ll find:

Energy & The Atom, a 1976 production of the American Nuclear Society that extols the virtues of atomic power and downplays its dangers; Z_Boson by the cult Doppler Effekt; A Child’s introduction to atomic energy and outer space, an educational record from 1960; Atomic Bomb, ‘electronic sounds mixed with Nigerian afro beat grooves’ which William Onyeabor released in 1978; Radiation Society, a recording by Black Moth Super Rainbow that’s slowly being eaten away by radiation; dialogues from the 1983 scifi movie WarGames; excerpts from the original background music of Godzilla (a metaphor for nuclear weapons) composed by Masaru Sato, etc.

Bernard Fevre, Molecule Dance, 1975

Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan, The Ray Makers, 1968

A trois dans les WC, Contagion, 1978

Perpetual Uncertainty is at Z33 in Hasselt until 10 December 2017.