The End of the World as We Know It via Hyperallergic

The Nuclear Culture Source Book considers the “lived experience of the uncanny nature of radiation” ushered in by disasters such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima.

Just as science fiction has become speculative fiction, the Great Acceleration, the Anthropocene, the Capitalocene and the Chthulucene now inundate theory, science and art.

Dr. Ele Carpenter, leader of the Nuclear Culture Research Group, has become a key figure in the interdisciplinary discussion of, and artistic response to, mankind’s self-destructive tendencies. The Nuclear Culture Source Book, a culmination of four years of research on nuclear material culture in technology and art, is her definitive introduction to Nuclear Culture and Aesthetics. As the volume’s editor, Carpenter has gathered the work of 60 artists and 12 writers working around the immateriality of radioactive isotopes, on site and in theory.

With some urgency, the Source Book directs a conscious move away from the distant spectacle of a nuclear sublime — remote and immeasurable — towards the immediacy of the “lived experience of the uncanny nature of radiation” ushered in by disasters such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. Nuclear materiality, sites and non-sites, modernity, and inheritance are investigated through artists and thinkers like Chim↑Pom, Isao Hashimoto, Susan Schuppli, James Acord and Timothy Morton.


The Fukushima disaster has only aggrandized this signature, provoking an era in which artists of all nations are driven to engage with nuclear events, in situ. Such an engagement “requires a long-term commitment to researching specialist knowledge and building relationships across disciplines,” and a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary spirit does saturate the Source Book’s artists and writers, buttressing the wide examination of our nuclear problem.


As nuclear waste can last up to 100,000 years, it will be humanity’s most enduring legacy. An imperative update to art’s expanding role within our volatile era, The Nuclear CultureSource Book presents a new critical language for the nuclear, opening up political and artistic perspectives alike. Though a few of the artworks and interviews do feel like filler, the collection as a whole is an unprecedented and invaluable resource to the any artist, scientist, historian, philosopher, or generally concerned citizen of the world. Truly, this is a subject that demands our attention — increasingly so as world powers, and economically driven opinions on the environment, shift as drastically as the Pacific plate.

The Nuclear Culture Source Book, edited by Ele Carpenter (2016) is published by Black Dog Publishing and is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.

Read more at The End of the World as We Know It 

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