NUCLEAR ZEN – KEIBO OIWA
Keibo Oiwa is a cultural anthropologist, author, translator, environmental activist and public speaker. He lived in North America for sixteen years and holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University. Since 1992, he has taught in the International Studies Department of Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama.Being a founder of the “Sloth Club”, an ecology and “Slow Life” Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), he is giving lectures and workshops on social and environmental issues. Oiwa is the author or editor of over 20 books. He lives in Yokohama with his family.
Radioactivity – the very word awakens a multitude of controversial thoughts and emotions in us. From the hazards of nuclear power plants, the fall-out from atomic bombs, the irradiation of food and the issue of nuclear waste disposal on the one hand to treatments for cancer and medical applications on the other. From its avantgardistic discovery in the 19th century with the promise of mankind’s reign over all matter to it’s applications and disasters of the 20th century, radioactivity has become one of the most controversial and feared words of the 21st century, a byword for suspicion, protest and danger.
Still, radioactivity is natural and universal. All the building blocks and elements of nature were created in supernovae and suns powered by nuclear forces. Without the light of the sun, life would probably not exist. On the other hand, human created elements like plutonium do not naturally occur in nature and are unknown to the life forms on Earth, therefore leaving them almost no chance for adaption.
On the one hand the atomic age reveals our massive dependency on energy, on the other hand it’s inner workings and origins remain widely unknown. Most of us profit from nuclear power somehow, but tend to forget or neglect it’s existence and operation, leaving it in the hands of a few experts, governments and international organizations. The ecological, economical, scientific, social and political dependencies have grown too complex. Not to mention any military aspects of nuclear power.
A reason for this may partially be the complex underlying theory and the quantitative scientific language that transports and establishes the nuclear mindset: the language of measurement, probability, threshold and quantity. Many aspects concerning the quality of the nuclear age remain inexpressible using scientific language. We are in fact lacking the means to culturally comprehend the complexities of the atomic age. We do not even have words to describe it.
Even Robert Oppenheimer quotes the religious Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita as he witnesses the first nuclear bomb flash in the year 1945 at the Trinity site in the desert sands of Alamogordo, New Mexico, incapable to describe the light of the nuclear sun with the scientific language that created it:
If the radiance of a thousand suns
were to burst into the sky,
that would be like
the splendor of the Mighty One.
I am become Death, the shatterer of Worlds.
Radioactivity has become part of our long-term cultural memory: a column of society expressing once more the human fascination for fire, the Promethean gift.
We met Keibo Oiwa at the Exhibition & Discussion “Possible Water” in Tokyo, July 2012 and invited him for a reflection and analysis of the events following the disaster of Fukushima Daiichi. The interview for the episode “NUCLEAR ZEN” was hosted by Mihoko Tanno and Raimund Wördemann at the Goethe Institut Tokyo.
“NUCLEAR ZEN” is part of “1001 SUNS”, a documentary essay exploring the controversial qualities and quantities of the nuclear age. It will be released to the public on a variety of platforms including a cinematic documentary, a web documentary, an interactive installation, a book and a series of lectures. The project started in the year 2001 and is currently in production.
Like the famous collection of Asian stories and folk tales “One Thousand and One Nights”, our documentary 1001 SUNS can be seen as a compilation and map of stories, facts, life lines and personal views, all exploring the mysterious nature and gravity of the atomic sun.
The next milestone will be the release as an interactive algorithmic installation at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) Karlsruhe, Germany in fall 2014.
Produced and directed by Mik Saup & Andreas Erhart.
Hosted by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile.
Autonomy reflects the human ability to function proactively and creatively in the social context, evoking the need for coordinated interaction with other living beings. The concept is installed at a sensitive time for politics in Chile, to develop prior to the presidential and parliamentary elections, where the concept of participation is present with power in the social fabric.
Curatorial Statement – Autonomía
11 Media Arts Biennale – Santiago de Chile