Chernobyl Project (video-documentation)

concept description

Notorious for the 1986 environmental disaster, Chernobyl is literally a charged site – invisible radiation still contaminates the area and the pall of societal breakdown lingers. In my work, the nature of the visual and its borders were explored to show how radiation escapes visibility and yet defines that environment. If a place does not reveal itself in the visual, the question was, then, how to look? By what means? The project was rooted in this question and developed the means by which to see it. The poetic as well as the physical operation of that work needed to reside in the image capture, in the impression of a physical impact created by the means of radiation itself, revealing a pervasive but hidden reality. Instead of creating traditional documentary imagery, I built custom pinhole cameras made of lead that blocked the penetration of light but allowed in radiation. The experiments were placed in the most contaminated locations within the Exclusion Zone, and filled with radiographic film to be exposed directly to the site’s radiation over time. The marks captured on film are the direct result of this radioactive exposure. The resulting series comprises 30 large-format radiographic negatives. If details of pictorial place are lost, what is gained is the sense of physical impact, created by the means of radiation itself – a hidden world held up as evidence for all to see.

The project was developed in collaboration with the Radio-Protection Institute, in Rio de Janeiro, the Medical Faculty of the University of Munich and the Otto Hug Radiation Institute, also in Munich, and the Sakharov University, in Minsk.