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outside the Shiprock uranium disposal cell, Shiprock, NM, all images this post FOP 2012
outside the Mexican Hat uranium tailing disposal cell
The last ten days have been all-consuming—two thousand miles covered by car in UT, NM, and CO. As we attempt to extract ourselves from the total immersion and movement that has been our process and project, we are left, at least for the moment, with very few words and many many images and sensations. Through the blur of highways, hotels, appointments, and dips and climbs in altitude, we are certain that the reality of what we’ve captured on various cameras can’t be communicated through still images alone. This is a tale of movement, change—and dynamic configurations.
During our journey we did indeed pass several trucks transporting radioactive waste to WIPP (the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant), our nation’s only deep geologic repository for the storage of transuranic nuclear debris. Traveling the same routes that the waste travels was the primary intention of our trip. But, still, we were surprised and startled by these encounters. Our routine of waiting at strategic points along the road in hopes of documenting a passing truck failed. Instead, what we did find was that after long hours of driving, as our focus started to drift, a truck would appear on the horizon. Each of the four we spotted carried a different form of packaging container, allowing us to grow our visual typology of transportation forms.
WIPP, located in the desert outside Carlsbad, is the nation’s most “terminal” site for nuclear waste. Here, materials will be sequestered for upwards of 10,000 years. Seeing waste move alongside our car on highways and interstates, especially as we neared WIPP, got us thinking: the moments we shared with it would be some of its last above ground for what very likely will be, eternity.
We were humbled by our encounters with staff and employees of the facilities and cultural institutions we visited. Their openness and professionalism towards two curious artists were remarkable. At TRANSCOM, we visited a room where nationwide shipments of waste are tracked to WIPP. Here, employees “look only at the movement” of nuclear waste on a minute by minute basis as it flows throughout our country. This visit made vividly clear how consequential this work is—and how it is taken up by real people every day, all day.
As we begin to work through the film, video and photography we have accumulated, we offer a few still images that signal, peripherally and indirectly, some of the moving configurations of place, people, things, and potent materialities that we encountered and passed through.
In the coming months, our project will be to work with our footage in an attempt to invent new ways to engage and communicate how this material shapes and is shaped by today’s social, biological, environmental and political forces. We’re not interested in reiterating perspectives or arguments that draw on outdated politics, understandings or assumptions. Instead, we want to meet and image this material’s contemporary movements and autonomies as vibrant matter.
remote handled nuclear waste en route to WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) along New Mexico’s Highway 285
road to the Rocky Flats Site/Wildlife Refuge, Arvada, CO, signage for new housing development on the right
setting up the car-mounted camera outside the EnergySolutions office in downtown Salt Lake City
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