While Japan was facing an environmental and nuclear disaster, the final phase of the new exhibition …brighter than a thousand suns… was taking place. Curiously, “environmental” and “nuclear” occurred hand in hand with the word “disaster”, conveniently setting the stage and context for this exhibition whose keywords are nuclear – environmental – disaster.
Quoting the Bhagavad Gita, Robert Oppenheimer described his experience of the first nuclear test Trinity as “…brighter than a thousand suns…” This became the title of a book by German author Robert Jungk, chronicling the discovery of nuclear energy and consequently, the atom bomb.
In this exhibition inspired by the Jungk book, wall painting, video and light combine into a site-specific ambient installation. The book is only a departure point: the titles of the chapters are de-contextualized and re-considered, its form appropriated, the meanings altered and changed, giving way to a new narrative.
The artist does not offer optimism but rather poses the question: How can the past inform the present? How does an antiquated idea of a fallout shelter resonate in today’s unstable world faced with an un-articulated yet omnipresent threat of man-made or environmental disaster that can strike any time, any place? The motif of the flash – a burst of light – is repeatedly portrayed, alluding to the instant when the catastrophe strikes: the shake, the lightning bolt, the precise moment when the concrete gives, pillars topple, the levee breaks. When particles and objects collide.
The overall environment of the installation is dominated by black light, only to be neutralized by bursts of white light, erasing the lettering and signage on the wall, alluding to the notion of visible/invisible, the illusion of knowledge/truth.
The video combines an interview with a fallout shelter owner, quotes from John Hershey’s book Hiroshima, Maurice Blanchot’s Writing of the Disaster, along with the author’s own interventions. The image, the text and the voice create a non-linear narrative, seeping with dystopian sentiment.
The title chapters of the book by Robert Jungk, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, are reproduced as wall painting, as facsimile copies appropriating the design of the actual book. The titles are used without explanation, leaving it to individual imagination to expand on. The element of design – the star-like shape – is in turn emancipated as an abstract painterly form, that at the same time assumes the character of a logo – sign, which not only represents the flash but also sums up all of the concerns this work touches upon.
- Wall painting, 2011, special FX paint on wall, dimensions variable
- The Atom Diptych, 2011, special FX paint on paper, 45 x 61 cm
- Brighter Than a Thousand Suns Video, 2011, HD/DVD, 7’30”; voices: Lala Rascic, Fallout Shelter Owner; quotes from: Maurice Blanchot, John Hershey, Robert Jungk
- Light, 2011, reflector, speaker, safety tape, dimensions variable
Exhibition design, setup and installation: Matt Vis, Rajko Radovanovic, Lala Rascic
Thank you: Timothy Weeks, Tony Campbell, Jessica Bizer, Mrs. Ward
Photo documentation: Rajko Radovanovic