The Alliance maintains a special internal fund that helps artists communicate with the public about nuclear waste and the human experience. We have co-sponsored two successful exhibitions called “Holding What Can’t be Held,”and will be part of another show planned for mid-2018.
The Feeling Body is an art collective founded by Alliance board president, Tim Andreae. Andreae worked tirelessly for two years to recruit artists and help them share their perspectives and experiences. The artists went with Alliance staff on numerous visits to the radioactive clean-up sites at the Idaho National Laboratory in Eastern Idaho.
See the video of the artists here.
Holding What Can’t be Held – a sampling
#1 Eric Mullis, “Drum #68660″
My experience at the INL nuclear waste site was defined by two extremes, a stifling internal sense of eminent danger contrasted with the banal safety routines, familiar everyday material, and off-putting domestic hygiene reminders. I translated these impressions through conversation and collaboration into 3
Drum #68660 is a response to the early containment methods that range from inadequate to non-existent as well as to the mundane-seeming materials that are being unearthed. Barrels scanned for their contents reveal objects such as aerosol cans, office supplies, latex gloves – all rendered extraordinary by irradiation. State of the art clean-up methods include the use of kitty litter to soak up liquid waste so that it is more easily contained. However, in February of 2016, the simple mistake of using the wrong kind of kitty litter lead to a massive explosion at the WIPP nuclear waste dump in New Mexico. Workers used an organic instead of an in-organic kitty litter and it reacted with the volatile contents of drum #68660, setting off a chain-reaction that contaminated the environment. The storage facility has yet to reopen fully.
#2. Kelly Cox, “Safe?”
I toured the INL last October while six months pregnant. INL authorities had assured me I was safe. I did not feel safe; I did not believe in the scenario. I was afraid for myself and others. Later, I captured those feelings in a diary and then began rewriting pages of the diary in response to a prompt from Daniel Pelz to “expose myself in three wrong places.” Some of the pages I photocopied and posted to telephone poles near a busy intersection at State and Collister. Others you see here. The bats are covered in the pre-INL entries where I am pregnant-euphoric and having a great birthday. On the ping-pong balls I have written the entry detailing my experience at the INL. These sentences will be kicked around by you.
The Snake River Aquifer, sublime in its size and complexity, is a sole source of drinking water for 300,000 idahoans and is crucial to agriculture in the state. Meanwhile, the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) with it’s extensive holdings of nuclear waste sits precariously on top of this most valuable resource. The INL’s existence with it’s history of using injection wells to flush low level waste directly into the aquifer casts a complicating shadow over this otherwise pristine landscape. Using cinematic effect I hope to appeal to a wide audience by capturing the landscape’s rugged beauty as well as its dramatic movements through geologic time.
#4, John Shinn, “Malad Gorge State Park 2”
#5 Kelly Cox, “Hot Matter” Bunnies 1 & 2
In Amy O’Brien’s research on the Rocky Flats Mother’s Day fire of 1969, she found reference to radioactive rabbits. The hind legs of the rabbits were irradiated or “hot” so they were called “hot bunnies.” Some were dissected and placed in barrels with the other hot matter.
Background: How this Show Was Created
By Tim Andreae
Donning safety vests and glasses, admittance badges, and radiation sensors*, a group of eight local and international artists toured the clean-up sites at the INL. The nuclear watchdog group, the Snake River Alliance sponsored the tour, inviting the artists to bear witness to today’s best practices for the handling of radioactive material, encountering among other things, the exhumation of plutonium contaminated waste that was buried sixty years ago in unlined pits directly above the Snake River Aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for 300,000 Idahoans.
Through various mediums including installation, performance, dance and photography, this year’s artists chronicle their impressions of the nuclear age, from the macrocosmic to the details and culture of the INL, a site that has been charged with holding the leftovers: substances that will be harmful to the biosphere for ungraspable spans of time.
This year’s artists are Rhode Island School of Design faculty and internationally acclaimed artist Daniel Peltz; Swedish installation artist and jewelry maker Sissi Westerberg; data-based artist and Boise State MFA program director for visual art Chad Erpelding; nationally renowned dancer and choreographer Amy O’Brien; local installation artists Eric Mullis and Kelly Cox; local photographer John Shinn; and local musician, artist and project organizer Tim Andreae.
Over the course of a year, the artists met on numerous occasions to process their experiences with the material. They came up with prompts for one another such as: “Design a safety protocol.” “Expose yourself in three wrong places.” “Wait for something that may not arrive for 159,200 years.” The artists worked together to create a cohesive – although perhaps disorienting – environment, and now invite the public to join in dialogue and contemplation.
* Exhibition participants were individually scanned before leaving the contaminated sites at the Idaho National Laboratory and have been found to have radiation occurring in such small amounts that it is not distinguishable from the natural background radiation. Dosimeter readings from tour participants have yet to be disclosed.
For more information on the history of the project visit, thefeelingbody.org. Donations to the Alliance will be accepted to help sustain this important work.