Lingering Radiation, autoradiograph, silver gelatin contact print of x-ray
exposed by the radiation in a fragment of an A-Bombed tree from the Hiroshima Peace
Memorial Museum Archive, 12x15, 2008

ELIN O’HARA SLAVICK

Lingering Radiation was made by placing a fragment of an A-Bombed Tree on x-ray film in light-tight condition for 10 days in the basement of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in 2008, developing the x-ray film, and then making a silver gelatin contact print of the x-ray. The fragment is one of 90,000 artifacts housed in the Peace Museum’s archive. Although I attempted to make 10 autoradiographs in this manner, Lingering Radiation is the only one that registered any radiation.


The history of the atomic age is intertwined with that of photography. Uranium's radioactivity was discovered through a photograph. In 1896, physicist Henri Becquerel placed uranium on a photographic plate to expose it to the sun. Because it was a cloudy day, he put the experiment in a drawer. The next day he developed the plate. To his amazement he saw the outline of the uranium on the plate that had never been exposed to light. He correctly concluded that uranium was spontaneously emitting a new kind of penetrating radiation and published a paper, "On the invisible rays emitted by phosphorescent bodies."1


After Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima develops the relationship between radiation, aftermath, exposure, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, and the visual language of photography. Working with the staff at the Peace Museum, I utilized autoradiography (capturing radioactive emissions from objects on x-ray film), cyanotypes (natural sun exposures on cotton paper impregnated with cyanide salts), rubbings of A-bombed surfaces and subsequent photographic contact prints from the rubbings, and traditional photography to document places and objects that survived the atomic bombing. The lingering radiation in a fragment of an A-Bombed tree appears on the x-ray film much like Becquerel’s uranium on photographic plates. The Japanese finally knew they has been attacked by an atomic bomb when they discovered that the x-ray film stored in the hospital’s vault was completely exposed by the bomb’s penetrating radiation.

The process and problem of exposure is central to my project. Countless people were exposed to the radiation of the atomic bomb. I expose already exposed A-bombed objects on x-ray film, but it is the radiation within them that causes the exposure. The exposure of A-bombed artifacts to the sun on cyanotype paper render the traumatic objects as white shadows,

atomic traces. Akira Mizuta Lippit writes, "At Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki, a blinding flash vaporized entire bodies, leaving behind only shadowtraces. The initial destruction was followed by waves of invisible radiation, which infiltrated the survivors' bodies imperceptibly. What began as a spectacular attack ended as a form of violent invisibility…The 'shadows,' as they were called, are actually photograms, images formed by the direct exposure of objects on photographic surfaces. Photographic sculptures. True photographs, more photographic than photographic images."2


1 Becquerel, “Sur les radiations émises par phosphorescence,” 501

2  Lippit, Atomic Light (Shadow Optics), 86 and 94.


Niels Bohr 4, 2-channel audio installation, 7:58 loop, 2016

ANDREW KEIPER


Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist and philosopher who profoundly influenced
both the science and politics of the atomic age. When he won the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics he was cited “for his services in the investigation of the
structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them.” Bohr worked
assiduously to help Jewish scientists find refuge from the Nazis during World
War II, before fleeing himself. He served as a advisor to the Manhattan
Project, although he did not join it full time.

Bohr understood well before the end of World War II that the successful creation and use of nuclear weapons would forever alter international
relations, and urged Allied leaders to pursue a policy of sharing nuclear weapons research with the Soviets, so as to avoid the kind of conflict and arms races that marked the Cold War.

Niels Bohr 4 is a 2-channel sound-based work that imagines the Bohr’s world, and what was at stake in it. We hear the sounds of scientific apparatuses probing the essences of radioactivity and the atom, andeavesdrop on a voice behind a wall, striving to apprehend its secretmonologue. Droning tones thread through this acousmatic experience, ambiguously both referential and musical. Our frame of listening vacillates between that of sound art and experimental music, challenging the listener’s ability to stay grounded in a single aesthetic mode. In this way, the work probes Bohr’s notion of complimentarity, in which the properties of an object cannot all be grasped simultaneously.