Arts Catalyst & Z33 House for Contemporary Arts, Belgium, 11 – 13 July 2016
A field trip to HADES, Belgium’s underground research lab in Mol, for geologic disposal of high-level radioactive waste. Organised by Nuclear Cultures project in with Z33 (Hasselt), and ONDRAF/NIRAS (Belgian agency for radioactive waste and enriched fissile materials), artists Kota Takeuchi, Andy Weir, Dave Griffiths and curators Ils Huygens and Ele Carpenter spent 3 days visiting Z33 and meeting Christoph Depaus, Maarten Van Geet and Jantine Schröder at SCK.
I organised Deep Field [Club Golf Nuclea Mol] – an art-science golfing dialogue reflecting on time as underground moles in the HADES research bunker, and re-enacting leisure pursuits of post-war nuclear workers. I’m collecting thoughts and feelings on future mattering of time and space implied by burying, and co-existing with, nuclear waste. I’m producing content for Deep Field [Unclear Zine], a microfiche fanzine collaging poetry, drawing, data, photographs and interviews that attempts to translate the contemporary radioactive waste repository for far-future readers, as a folkloric site of conflict and unknowing.
The HADES lab was constructed in 1980, at 255 metres underground, to research possibilities of geological disposal in deep clay strata. Like underground facilities in France, Sweden and Japan, the research lab is not intended to be used as a final repository for radioactive waste. Hades is also the Greek god of the underworld.
Treblinka: Archaeological Investigations & Artistic Responses (2016), eds. Caroline Sturdy Colls & Michael Branthwaite, Stoke: Centre of Archaeology Special Issue, ISBN 9781534632295
Between 800,000 and 1 million people lost their lives at Treblinka extermination camp during the Holocaust. A further 10,00 perished in the nearby labour camp as a result of the Nazi death through work policy and ad hoc executions. Since 2007 both camps have been the subject of forensic archaeological research by Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls, to reveal new insights into the nature and extent of Nazi persecution.
This book presents the major findings, which included the discovery of the gas chambers, personal effects of victims, and mass graves. It also includes artistic response to these findings, curated by Michael Branthwaite and commissioned as part of the international exhibition Finding Treblinka. Featuring new artworks by Michael Branthwaite, Dave Griffiths, Janine Goldsworthy, Hilary Jack and Jenny Steele, this opened at the Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom in Treblinka, Poland in August 2015 and the Wiener Library in London, UK in June 2016.
Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide, 6 July – 15 September 2016
The Wiener Library’s new exhibition will explore the Nazi labour and extermination camps of Treblinka using the ground-breaking research of Staffordshire University archaeologist Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls and artistic responses to the topic curated by Michael Branthwaite.
For the first time in the UK, this archaeological work will be adapted and displayed along with specially commissioned artworks by Michael Branthwaite, Janine Goldsworthy, Dave Griffiths, Hilary Jack and Jenny Steele.
Through the team’s unique, predominantly non-invasive approach, a more accurate picture of the camps has emerged. At the same time, religious and ethical considerations surrounding their investigation have been respected. This work allowed the old gas chambers, mass graves and a large number of objects to be located. The innovative exhibition includes highlights from the Library’s collections, such as a contemporary map of Treblinka, Nazi documentation and testimony from survivors. It examines the history and architecture of the camps and the forensic archaeological process that helped reveal the camp’s history. The exhibition also explores the application of art as a means to provide access to scientific and historic data.
35mm B&W microfilm collage, microfiche reader, 350 x 400 x 350mm
“Looking squarely ahead, brave and joyous, at the world. The squads march to work. All that matters to us now is Treblinka. It is our destiny.” Song by Kurt Franz, Treblinka commandant, August-November 1943
Viewers browse through a layered, compressed representation of trench TREB04, excavated in 2013 on the site of the gas chamber at Treblinka, Poland. Magnified microfilm fragments depict archaeological trench finds that locate place and corroborate Holocaust eyewitness testimony. Viewers perform the evidence, as durational observers who optically uncompress the material over time. They navigate the brief time and space of the camp’s mechanised, chaotic extermination and demolition, enacting gestures inherent to decoding the indexical illusions of both photography and forensis. Data and images from the excavation combine with microfilm’s archival potential as carrier of textual evidence for future translation.
Produced for the touring exhibition Finding Treblinka: Artists Respond, commissioned by Centre for Archaeology, Staffordshire University, and funded by Rothschild Foundation. Data courtesy of forensic archaeologist Caroline Sturdy-Colls.