Nuclear Research Residency
S-Air and Arts Catalyst Exchange Programme. 

Image: Horonobe Underground Research Centre, 2017. 

In February to March 2017, myself and Warren Harper were nominated by curators Ele Carpenter and Kyoko Tachibana to undertake a 5-week residency in the city of Sapporo, Japan, as part of an exchange programme between organisations S-Air and Arts Cataylst. The following is a statement that accompanied a presentation of work at Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio following the conclusion of our residencey in March 2017:

During our time at Tenjinyama we collated a body of research around Japan’s relationship to nuclear power, through meetings and interviews as well as several study trips. This emerged in parallel with ongoing research and works made in response to the now decommissioned Bradwell Nuclear Power Station, located along the Blackwater Estuary in our home county of Essex.

Our research in Hokkaido included a visit to Toyotomi to meet dairy farmer and nuclear activist Kuse Shigetsugu; the Horonobe Underground Research Centre; Tomari Nuclear Power Plant (NPP); meetings with the Group for Decommissioning the Tomari NPP; Takeichi Saito, who has been measuring the temperature of the sea around Iwanai for 40 years to monitor the thermal discharge from Tomari NPP; and Arai Hiroaki, to learn about his book sharing initiative and involvement with libraries around the areas impacted by the Fukushima disaster of March 2011. At the end of our trip we also visited Fukushima prefecture with artists Kota Takeuchi and Shuji Akagi, exploring the exclusion zone and the experiences of residents in Fukushima City 6 years after the disaster.

Visitor centres are one key method used by the nuclear industry to show information in relation to what they do and the facilities they build. In this context the production of nuclear power seems to be a rather benign pursuit, the imagery used and the forms of display attempt to ‘soften’ the image of the nuclear and persuade local communities that the presence of these power stations are beneficial for them as well as everyone else. There is little mention of long-term issues, nor detailed plans around the responsibilities or consequences around nuclear waste and the inevitability that this will be passed down from generation to generation.

With the logic of the visitor centre in mind we have sought to question or consider this mode of display as well as the information that is selected to be shown within this context. We argue that the way in which the nuclear industry is represented and experienced in these spaces should be contested and questioned, particularly with heightened awareness around the increased risks presented by unavoidable natural disasters. Therefore we have brought together documentation from our time here, materials we have come across and that which has been shared with us on the various meetings that have been conducted.

The gallery is used as a space to begin to interrogate the current ways in which the nuclear industry is presented. In doing so it creates a space that hopes to stimulate thinking around and reactions to the implications of a society dependent on nuclear power and the predicaments this presents in relation to the disposal of its waste. It allows for a multiplicity of voices that contribute to the discourses around this energy production method, how it is perceived and understood and what the future is for the legacy of the spent fuel it leaves behind.

Warren Harper and James Ravinet, 2017.

Sample of images taken during research trips conducted during the residency. 

Image: Installation view,  Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio, March 2017.
Los Angeles, Calif.