Tomorrow is the final opportunity to view the revealing and actually quite shocking images captured when a group of north eastern artists visited the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 30 years on. The visit to Chernobyl by a group of northern artists and designers proved to be an inspirational experience, leading to an exhibition of their works at House of Blah Blah in Middlesbrough.
Last year a group of 14 artists – calling themselves the 26:86 Collective – visited the site of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster in the year of its 30th anniversary and documented the visit with film, photos and interviews.
This was a disaster that sent shock waves, quite literally around Europe and the globe. With nuclear fall out as close to our homes as Cumbria it certainly made us only too well aware of the fragility of our globe’s ecosystems and our shared atmosphere.
The debates about nuclear power have raged ever since but exactly what has happened over in the disaster zone itself in Ukraine? The group of artists have reported back and through this exhibition we can see a nuclear plant and city frozen in time. It is a 20th century Soviet Pompeii in many senses that we see.
The multi-disciplined body of work – including photography, installations and graphic design work is a touring exhibition of ’30 Years On – Chernobyl Exposed’ for 26:86 Collective. It closes in House of Blah Blah at the end of tomorrow’s session.
The exhibition is a personal response of each artist to the trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl in the Ukraine, and the research project and exhibitions will help raise awareness of the issues around nuclear energy.
Named after the day and year of the Chernobyl disaster, 26:86 Collective is made up of established and emerging artists and designers across the fields of illustrative and fine art, textiles, graphic design and photography.
To take two of the artists, Niall Kitching has created a series of striking soviet style propaganda banners. Niall says that in the abandoned city of Pripyat that the skyline is dominated by the message, “Let the Atom be a Worker, Not a Soldier.” Ironically it is said that there was a factory here making components for nuclear weapons from Chernobyl bi-products. Niall uses soviet style propaganda in his banner art to look at the secret and hidden meanings behind the words.
Teesside artist and Cleveland College of Art lecturer Alyson Agar’s Ukranian Smile photo exhibition explores the capital city of Kiev through psychogeography wandering. Alyson documents green spaces and records accidental, or transient sculptural vistas in the townscape.
Claire Baker looks at the effects of time and abandonment of the evacuated homes but she also says Don’t Let History Repeat Itself as she shows with the destructive effects on material goods and building fabric from just ONE moment in time. And a moment that is 30 years ago!
The exhibition seems even more poignant for its surroundings in the warehouse like House of Blah Blah. When I was there they were playing Joy Division and Velvet Underground so it did seem like we stepping inside a Cold War scenario.
Open 10-4pm tomorrow. House of Blah Blah, Exchange House, Exchange Square, Middlesbrough TS1 1DB
(Next to Teesside Archives and almost under the A66 fly over in the former GPO building.