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“Look only at the movements.” – Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual
image NASA, 1957, a physicist studies alpha rays in a continuous cloud chamber to, “obtain information aimed at minimizing undesirable effects of radiation on nuclear-powered aircraft components.”
In less than two weeks, we’ll be embarking on a research trip supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. That trip, which we’ve tentatively named Repository: Look Only at the Movement, both extends the work we released in June, (a 42-card deck that chronicles “temporary” and mobile infrastructures in the United States designed to contain nuclear waste until more enduring facilities can be researched and constructed, titled Repository: A Typological Guide to America’s Ephemeral Nuclear Infrastructure), and takes it in a new direction.
For the new project, we will drive some of the interstates and highways used for the transportation of nuclear waste in the United States with variety of media in hand, including Super 8 film, digital photography, film photography and a car-mounted high-definition time-lapse video camera. Instead of focusing on particular labs, storage sites, or mounds as we did for the Repository deck, we will research and creatively document the movements of nuclear waste and the materials that facilitate them.
One could say that during the journey, we’ll be addressing the portions of the American West that we traverse as a kind of cloud chamber. We will attempt to detect traces and trajectories of the particularly potent materiality of nuclear waste as it passes though and interacts with human-designed spaces of daily life. In the process, we will become actors in the mix of movements and events surrounding the traveling waste as we take up paths and locations along roadways where citizens and nuclear waste move through the West side-by-side. We will document passages and interactions from the perspective of the potent materials being transported, as they continue their ongoing quest for a final resting place capable of containing them into the deep future.
While in the field, we’ll be looking at the materiality of the spaces through which nuclear waste moves, and is moved: tire, pavement, guard rails, signage, canister, truck, gate, ground. We intend to respond to the movements and material objects and surfaces that enable various different transportation processes and infrastructures for low-level waste, uranium tailings, transuranic, and high-level waste.
Our exact route will be determined by what we encounter along the way, but potential destinations include: Clive, Utah’s low-level waste storage site; uranium tailing sites in New Mexico and Utah (Moab, Mexican Hat); Albuquerque, Los Alamos National Lab; the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, NM; and Rocky Flats, Colorado.
We plan to give special attention to the flows of nuclear materials to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. WIPP is the only deep geologic repository that is open and receiving transuranic waste for “permanent” disposal in the United States. As a “terminal” site for waste, it aims to sequester waste for upwards of 10,000 years.
The photography and video that result from our ten days of “moving-with” America’s mobile nuclear infrastructure will be the basis for an exhibition that will be relayed between several venues (in 2013-15) near sites that hold historical and contemporary significance because of their relationship to the movements of nuclear waste. As the exhibition is relayed from venue to venue, it will reenact the route of our research trip, trace the spatial scope and topographies documented in the work itself, and traverse paths that nuclear waste materials will continue to travel for the foreseeable future.
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