Radiological Deep Time Aesthetics

Weir, Andy. 2020. Radiological Deep Time Aesthetics. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]


Download (111MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Nuclear energy production worldwide has created the problem of what to do with its legacy of high-level radioactive waste. This waste, increasing at a rate of around 12,000 tonnes a year, is dangerous to humans and the environment, and so must be contained for durations up to hundreds of thousands of years, or longer.226 Alongside technical questions of nuclear waste storage, such ‘deep’ timescales also open up questions such as how the hazardous toxicity of these materials could be communicated to future generations of people, or even how such long-term futures could be imagined from a present perspective. To address these concerns, the Nuclear Energy Association launched an interdisciplinary initiative in 2011 named the Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory across Generations (or RK&M) project. Taking this project as its starting point, this thesis argues that the imaginary of nuclear futures is based on a problematic assumption, that of a universalised image of a future human, separated from ‘nature’ and made safe against fear of nuclear apocalypse. The thesis challenges this basic premise, proposing a more critical perspective on transformations of ‘the human’ in relation to deep times of nuclear waste. It does this through practice-based methods and a written dissertation.

The art encounter is rethought as a speculative ethical call from an unknown entangled future, alienating experience in the present. Through practice, artwork is developed as a buried distributed ‘marker’ of nuclear toxicity. Against current proposals to mark waste storage sites, this highlights the materiality of the waste itself as part of an ongoing ecology of toxicity its viewers are implicated within. Through developing 3D-printed demons, it uses mythic fiction as method to connect local sites with histories and deep time futures of radioactive waste. This informs the dissertation, which goes on to propose a new aesthetic structure that escapes traditions of the sublime and the ‘alreadymade’ of contemporary art through imagining radioactive waste as future relic.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Nuclear Cultures; Contemporary Art; Deep Time; Anthropocene; Sublime; Alreadymade; Radioglomerate; Future Ruin; Relic; Waste; Demon; Plastic; Myth; Materiality

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 April 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

11 Jun 2021 13:55

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:18


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)