Look Only at the Movement
A potent tale has been set into motion across the American landscape. And it is only just beginning. Look Only at the Movement juxtaposes two entangled worlds as they unfold across one another: the streaming American Highway system and its travelers' punctuating encounters with nuclear waste transport, disposal cells, and sites of remediation. The project offers a meditation-in-motion for audiences. It invites imaginings, curiosity, and logistical questions about how contemporary life, landscape, and infrastructure design will, for foreseeable futures, bend their realities around the need to contain and indefinitely move-with nuclear materiality.
Look Only at the Movement opened at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center on October 3, 2013. Parsons, The New School for Design, 2 West 13th Street, New York, NY.
During the fall of 2012, we (smudge studio) embarked on a 12-day research trip to generate original documentation of storage infrastructures and engineered landscapes, as well as mobile infrastructures that facilitate the movement of nuclear materials along U.S. interstate highways. We documented not only these sites, but also their larger, environmental and topographical contexts. Our field research brought us in contact with mobile infrastructures and human beings who track and move-with these critical materials.
Sites visited include: EnergySolutions Clive Facility, UT; Moab Project, UT (a project of the Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation Act); Crescent Junction Disposal Site; Mexican Hat Uranium Disposal Cell, UT; Shiprock Uranium Disposal Cell, NM; Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, NM (our nation’s only deep geologic repository for transuranic nuclear waste) NM; Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM; Rocky Flats, CO (site of former plutonium plant); and Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, NY.
On September 25, 2012 we toured the Department of Energy's TRANSCOM field office in southern New Mexico. Staff at this high-security site monitor the movements of satellite-tracked trucks transporting TRU waste, 24-hours-a-day from their sites of temporary “storage” to New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). At WIPP, nuclear materials are buried 1250 feet below the surface in a 250 million year old salt dome — where the aim is to isolate them from humans and the environment for the next 10,000 years.
The resulting digital video and photography constitute the "findings" of our field research. They expresses our intention to create accessible, material tracings of the realities associated with this fact: the movement of nuclear waste through public spaces is (and will long continue to be) a condition of contemporary life, landscape, and infrastructure design. Yet, citizens, architects, and engineers have virtually no models for how to design and maintain infrastructures capable of safely containing nuclear materials for the millions of years required by their potency.
Look Only at the Movement is an exhibition relay among five venues between Fall 2013 and Spring 2015. Each venue is located near historical and/or contemporary sites and routes that are part of the research and resulting film/photography. As the exhibition is relayed from venue to venue, it will re-enact the route of the research trip, trace the spatial scope and topographies documented in the work itself, and traverse paths that waste materials will continue to travel for foreseeable futures. These venues include Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons the New School for Design, New York, NY (10.3.13-12.05.13); Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe, NM (5.12.14-5.31.14); Center for Land Use Interpretation, Wendover, UT (Summer 2014; Rocky Flats Cold War Museum, Arvada, CO (Fall 2014); Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV (Spring 2015). A comment and question logbook will be available at each exhibition and travel to upcoming venues. Selected comments will be posted on this page during the exhibition relay.
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Our focus on mobile infrastructures builds upon the 42-card deck that we released in June 2012: Repository: A Typological Guide to America's Ephemeral Nuclear Infrastructure.
Repository, and other smudge projects, uses media to visualize or “signal” invisible forces (earth forces as well human forces) that shape natural and built environments with great consequence, but about which there is little cultural awareness. The speculative tools and aesthetic provocations that we make invite humans to recalibrate their senses of place and their imaginations in relation to forces of change that function and unfold at scales that can exceed human cognitive capacity to grasp and comprehend.
Photography and video from Look Only at the Movement has been screened or exhibited at the following events:
The Anthropocene Project: An Opening, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, January 2013
Secret Wars, Proteus Gowanus, Brooklyn, NY, January 2013
Deep Time - No Time, Semmer Berlin, Berlin, Germany, February 2013