James Acord, Mark Waller, Carey Young explored the economic and cultural legacy of atomic power in a series of new commissions
The 'Atomic' exhibition confronted fears and assumptions about science and the nuclear industry. Featuring the work of the American 'nuclear sculptor' James Acord, the only private individual in the world licensed to handle radioactive materials. 'Atomic' dealt with the tricky issue of the idealism behind the 'white heat of technology' of the fifties and sixties and attempts to break down the wall of secrecy which has shielded the nuclear industry since the cold war.
Acord had an ambition to break down the wall of secrecy which has shielded the nuclear industry since the cold war. His 15-year self-organised residency on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, home of the atomic bomb, was a tragi-comic dance between Acord and the US Department of Energy as he sought permission to sculpt with the stuff of the nuclear age. Atomic leads us through his perilous journey to a site-specific display of his nuclear reliquaries - specially commissioned for his UK residency at Imperial College London.
As a counterpoint, artist Carey Young travelled to the former USSR to photograph the remnants of the nuclear-fuelled space race, the hero-worship of Gagarin and the ironic spectacle of the pride of Russia's technological achievements displayed among knock-down Western consumer goods.
Meanwhile, Mark Waller gained access to some of Britain's nuclear power stations to film a short thriller, 'Glow Boys', to be shown as an installation, about itinerant nuclear power workers who mysteriously develop superhuman qualities, featuring Mark E. Smith of The Fall.
2 - 27 October 1998, Imperial College Gallery and Queen's Tower, Imperial College, London, UK
The exhibition at Imperial was accompanied by a round table discussion Art & the Atomic State. A schools programme led by James Acord supported the exhibition.
Art & the Atomic State
Tue 24 November 1998
James Acord, Carey Young, Mark Aerial Waller
The Gallery, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London SW7.
A discussion event to accompany the Atomic exhibition.
Panelists: Artists James Acord, Carey Young, Mark Waller with Keith Franklin, BNFL, Mark Ramsay, Imperial College Radiation Safety Officer, and Helen Wallace, Greenpeace. Chaired by Nicola Triscott, Director of Arts Catalyst.
July - August 1999, Kluze Fortress, Bovec, Slovenia
The Atomic exhibition was shown at Kluze Fortress near Bovec. The fortress is at the head of the Soca Valley, near one of the main entry points to Slovenia from Italy and the exhibition has received a constant stream of visitors, mostly European tourists. James Acord gave his notable lecture-performance in the capital, Ljubljana.
2 Oct - 28 Nov 1999, Yard Gallery, NOW, Nottingham, UK
Atomic toured to the Yard Gallery at Wollaton Hall Museum in Nottingham as part of the NOW Festival, a festival of contemporary arts organised by the City Council. James Acord was artist-in-residence at the NOW Festival. Accompanying the exhibition was a schools programme, led by James Acord, who also gave a talk.
Softback. Glows in the dark.
Essay by James Flint.
48 pages. 21 colour, 10 b&w illustrations.
James Acord was the only private individual in the world licensed to own and handle radioactive materials. He is likely to remain so since the authorities closed the loopholes after he achieved his license. His work was a story of a 20-year performance, a cat and mouse game with the nuclear regulatory authorities, in which he pursued his dream of converting highly radioactive waste into inert metal for use in art. Along the way, he created sculpture and events that probed the history of nuclear engineering, often incorporating radioactive materials. His astonishing story shines light on the secrecy and security with which society cloaks the nuclear industry.
Carey Young is a visual artist and teacher who incorporates a variety of media such as video, photography, performative events and installation into her art works, which investigate the increasing incorporation of the personal and public domains into the realm of the commercial world. Young's projects often center on notions of language, training and performance, and take an ambiguous political stance in order to create a web of complex questions for the viewer. Her 2013 exhibit Legal Fictions at Migros Museum in Zurich was described by Mousse Magazine as "law-based works [that] address the monolithic power of the legal system. The artist examines law as a conceptual and abstract space in which power, rights, and authority are played out through varying forms of performance and language. With the drafting assistance of legal advisers, her works often take the form of experimental but functional legal instruments such as contracts, and also employ media such as video, installation, and text."
Carey Young is a lecturer in fine art at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London.
Mark Aerial Waller is an artist working in video, sculpture, drawing and event based practices, based in London. He produces interdisciplinary, cinematic time travelogues that refute any predictable balance between our romance for the ancient past and our fetish for a streamlined future. Waller defies conventional screening formats, integrating sculptural objects and live performances for an experience of cinema defined in spatial and situational terms. He is also the founder of The Wayward Canon, a platform for event-based interventions in cinematic practices.
He studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art, London for BA(Hons) Fine Art - Film & Video (1990-1993) and was listed in September 2013's Art Forum in their Top Ten.