Shifting the Nuclear Imaginary: Art and the Flight from Nuclear Modernity

Carpenter, Ele. 2016. Shifting the Nuclear Imaginary: Art and the Flight from Nuclear Modernity. In: Ryan Bishop and John Beck, eds. Cold War Legacies: Systems, Theories, Aesthetics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9781474409483 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The predominant existential and political issues surrounding the ‘nuclear’ are no longer focused on nuclear weapons as such, although proliferation remains a persistent concern. Especially in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, nuclear crisis has come to mean catastrophic accident rather than military conflict. Yet the coordinates of the nuclear spatial imaginary remain disturbingly consistent. The immensely destructive capability of nuclear technologies has again become evident in the civilian realm; the scale of the contamination of populations and the environment remains an enormous challenge, as do the containment of toxicity and the issue of how to dispose of radioactive materials that will remain deadly for thousands of years. The promise of the nuclear – to end all wars; to generate cheap and boundless energy – is in many ways itself a toxic remnant of a triumphant industrial modernity that has failed to account for the experience on the ground. This nuclear modernity is part of a complex belief system that has sedimented faith in scientific solutions into everyday practices which maintain the nuclear status quo. How might the nuclear be approached otherwise? Can the abstracting gaze of modernity in its nuclear form be addressed through an attention to the materials that make up the industries driven by nuclear technology? How might the nuclear be apprehended not, from above and outside the target zone, but from below, from within, close at hand? Can art practice engage with and find new ways of addressing belief in scientific modernity, its specialist knowledge and operating procedures? Is it possible to think beyond the permanent dread produced by a notionally un-inventable technology? What kinds of knowledge need to be retained, and what might be lost? These are some of the questions addressed by artists dealing with the contemporary nuclear threat.

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Book Section

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Nuclear Culture

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Date Deposited:

23 Feb 2016 10:20

Last Modified:

29 Sep 2017 14:12


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