June 3 – July 23, 2016
Opening reception: Friday, June 3, 6-8pm (Introduction by curator at 7pm)
Check below for additional dates.
The exhibition Reactive Matters explores the ways in which nuclear energy permeates our surroundings – its presence lingering in the soil we tread, the water we consume, and the roads we often travel. To reveal its direct impact on our environment, artists Jeremy Bolen, Abbey Hepner and Shimpei Takeda employ alternative photo processes that incorporate radioactive materials at different stages of the image’s production. Similar to documentary photography, they provide various vantage points of the issue—from close up views of the effects of radioactive material when in contact with film, to a comprehensive view of nuclear waste facilities in the U.S. through the fogged lens of one of nature’s most toxic elements.
Jeremy Bolen’s works address the invisibility of radioactive materials in our natural landscape. Bolen traveled to several locations where nuclear energy remains and documented the invisible energy by burying film in the contaminated soil (including the Red Gate Woods in Illinois where the world’s first nuclear reactor and waste are buried, the bombing test range in Wendover, UT where the bombing crew who carried out the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki trained, and the former Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine site in New Mexico). He then unearthed and loaded this film into his camera to capture the inconspicuous surrounding landscapes. The resulting images and video maintain the ghostly quality of the sites they represent, as they contain layers of information rooted in their material substance of chromatic anomalies, dirt samples, and residual markings.
With her Transuranic series, Abbey Hepner returns to an obsolete nineteenth-century photographic process that employs uranium instead of silver to form the image. The thirteen uranotypes track and document the sites in the U.S. that transport nuclear waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. Upon moving to New Mexico from Japan where she was doing disaster relief work following the 2011 tsunami, Hepner set out to understand the impact of the nuclear industry on her immediate landscape. The prints present the waste facilities from an outsiders’ perspective, indicating their ubiquitous and casual nature. Their orange hue – formed by the exposure of uranyl nitrate – evokes a nostalgic sensation that is simultaneously negated by the reality reflected in the images.
After many years abroad, Shimpei Takeda returned to his childhood environs of Fukushima following the 2011 nuclear disaster. Employing a cameraless process, Takeda set out to distill a physical record of the lingering effects of the region’s radioactive contamination. To create the works in his series Trace he collected soil from various locations in Fukushima representative of life and death such as temples, shrines, war sites, and his own birthplace. He then exposed photo-sensitive paper to radiation emitted from contaminated particles in the soil. The subsequent photograms appear as highly abstract black and white constellations, yet their very existence uncovers one of the worst manmade disasters of our times.
These three projects expose traces of radioactive matter in our soil, air, and water—a silent, invisible energy revealed here through contact with photographic materials. The resulting works are eerily ironic as their forms take on poetic, abstract and often dreamy qualities. They embody the tension in contemporary culture between the uses and abuses of nuclear matter that serves both as a source of energy as well as a destructive force of war and ecological catastrophe. It is with their very existence that these works function as material witnesses to the effects of nuclear energy on the environment, and on those inhabiting it.
* Megan Geuss, “Fukushima, Vieques, Rocky Flats: Radioactive photos tell nuclear stories,” Ars Technica, July 8, 2016.
* Editor’s Pick, Portland Monthly
RELATED PUBLIC PROGRAMS:
All public programs are free, open to the public, and take place at Newspace (1632 SE 10th Ave), unless otherwise noted.
* Opening reception: Friday, June 3, 6-8pm (introduction by curator at 7pm).
* Discussion: Material Impact: Thursday, June 9, 6:30-8:00pm. Organized in partnership with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Speakers: Jeremy Bolen, artist | Abbey Hepner, artist | Chuck Johnson, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.
* Film Screening: Containment: Friday, July 22, 6:30-8:00pm.A 2015 documentary film by Peter Galison and Robb Moss. Part observational essay filmed in weapons plants, Fukushima and deep underground—and part graphic novel—Containment weaves between an uneasy present and an imaginative, troubled far future, exploring the idea that over millennia, nothing stays put. Free and open to the public.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Jeremy Bolen is a Chicago based artist, researcher and educator interested in site specific, experimental modes of documentation and presentation. Much of Bolen’s work involves rethinking systems of recording in an attempt to observe invisible presences that remain from various scientific experiments and human interactions with the earth’s surface. Bolen received his MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012 and is a recent recipient of the Oxbow Faculty Artist Residency in Saugatuck, MI, Center for Land Use Interpretation Residency in Wendover, Utah; Anthropocene Campus Residency in Berln, Germany; Joshua Tree Highlands Residency in Joshua Tree, CA; Faculty Enrichment Grant at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Provost Award for Graduate Research from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His work has been exhibited at numerous locations including the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; La Box, Bourges; IDEA Space, Colorado Springs; The Mission, Houston; Galerie Zürcher, Paris; Andrew Rafacz, Chicago; Salon Zürcher, New York; The Drake, Toronto; Untitled, Miami; Gallery 400, Chicago; Depaul University Art Museum, Chicago; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, and Roots and Culture, Chicago. Bolen currently serves as a Lecturer at the School of Art Institute of Chicago.
Abbey Hepner is an artist and educator investigating the human relationship with landscape and technology. Her work explores ethical gray areas where humanity and industry collide, illuminating the increasingly common use of health as a currency. She received degrees in Art and Psychology from the University of Utah and her MFA from the University of New Mexico. Hepner’s work has been exhibited widely in such venues as the Mt. Rokko International Photography Festival (Kobe, Japan), the Museum of History and Industry (Seattle, WA), SITE Santa Fe (Santa Fe, NM), the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (Denver, CO), the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History (Albuquerque, NM), and the Institut für Alles Mögliche (Berlin, Germany). She is the recipient of a Puffin Foundation grant and has presented at numerous conferences including the 2015 International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in Vancouver, Canada and the 2016 Society for Photographic Education (SPE) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Shimpei Takeda is a Japanese artist working with photographic materials. Moving to New York City in 2002, in his early career, Takeda collaborated with composers and sound artists through video works. In recent years, he has explored abstract aesthetics in conceptual photography. In 2014 he relocated to Japan, where he continues to pursue his projects. His works have been featured in exhibitions such as A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial (International Center of Photography, New York, 2013), In the Wake (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2015), and Camera Atomica (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2015) among others. His work is in the permanent collection of the International Center of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Art Boston, and Amana Photo Collection.
ALSO ON VIEW:
in the SPECIAL PROJECTS GALLERY:
June 3 – 26, 2016: African American Heroes by Wilson High School Students
July 1 – July 23, 2016: Blue World: Cyanotypes by David Douglas High School Photosynthesis Students
Address: 1632 10th Ave, Portland, OR.
For press inquiries, contact Newspace Curator Yaelle S. Amir or 503.963.1935.
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