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From the archives of a nuclear research center

Endless Flame - the Radiant Archive*, curated by Merve Elveren and discussing image production policies through the KfK archive, can be visited at Barın Han until November 26

Endless Flame - the Radiant Archive, exhibition poster

About the KfK archive

West Germany's first nuclear research center, Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe (KfK), was built north of Karlsruhe in 1956. Life in the institution was documented by professional photographers for more than fifty years, and at the end of this process, an archive of approximately 210,000 photographs and films was created. This archive contains both predictable images that are documented, such as images of fuel rods used in the research process, and images of daily life in the institution.

With the ideological change, came with the environmental movement in the 1970s in West Germany, the country began to purify itself from nuclear energy production and nuclear weapons. As a result of this situation, KfK lost its status as an institution and the facilities of the nuclear research center were transferred to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). This transformation made it possible to make the KfK archive accessible.

Ten percent of the archive has been digitized since 2018, and the archive are available to researchers since 2022. Since 2022, the KfK archive has been an important source about the process, impact and severity of the nuclear threat.

Endless Flame - the Radiant Archive, exhibition poster

Eternal Flame – the Radiating Archive

Eternal Flame – the Radiant Archive is created in collaboration with Moritz Appich, Mustafa Emin Büyükcoşkun, Cécile Kobel, Judith Milz, Rayna Teneva and curated by Merve Elveren. It discusses the policies of image production by focusing on the KfK archive. The exhibition treats the still and moving images of the archive not only as evidence or records, but also as representations of memory and the ideology of the period. The works in the exhibition propose new methodologies for recording and ask questions about the documentary nature of recording.

Let me have my cake (and eat it too)

Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich goes on a journey to a contaminated and prohibited area near Chernobyl and after this journey she writes stories about the people of the prohibited region in her book, Chernobyl's Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future. In his book, Alexievich talks about the silence of the beehives in the morning, the cats no longer eating the dead mice seen everywhere, and milk not fermenting. The stories in the book add another layer to the KfK archive footage, incorporating everyday objects and official memories of the familiar.

Judith Milz describes difference in terms of simultaneity rather than establishing a direct causal chain based on Alexievich's stories. Let me have my cake (and eat it too) consists of jars that hold ready-to-eat vegetables. The installation combines shelves that can be found in pantries and LED lighting reminiscent of laboratory lighting. Vegetables, which carry all the information about the environment in which they are grown in their genetic maps, are accompanied by a film containing images from the KfK archive and an installation with sound jars that can remind you of underwater humming.

Endless Flame - the Radiant Archive, exhibition view

Images from the Past Future

With the rise of anti-nuclear movements in West Germany in the 1970s, KfK adopted a new communication strategy. With this strategy, KfK is tried to convince the people of the region about the bright future that will come with nuclear energy and the safety of the reactors.

Rayna Teneva and Mustafa Emin Büyükcoşkun's project, Images from the Past Future, focuses on films produced during this period, which are about disasters that occurred both naturally and human-made. Images from the Past Future are displayed in the exhibition space with different printouts. The two-channel video, produced in 2021, is accompanied by documentation of a performance held in 2019.

Endless Flame - the Radiant Archive, exhibition view


Concerning the Image Archive of a Nuclear Research Center

The publication, edited by Susanne Kriemann, Judith Milz, Friederike Schäfer, Klaus Nippert and Elke Leinenweber, is based on current concerns about the whereabouts of nuclear waste.

Disposal of nuclear waste does not allow individual approaches, and it is inevitable that the waste in question will create problems for future generations. 10% aims to describe and visualize the life left behind from a nuclear research. Within the scope of the exhibition, the publication is accompanied by three separate sections: before, while and hindsight.

Before: Ten percent of the archive consisting of visuals of KfK's activities was transferred to digital media and content information was completed. As part of the exhibition in Barın Han, KIT is making KfK's archive, which is closed to the public except for special approval and research, available online.

While: The song list called Atomeuphoria, which started to be created by Moritz Appich and Cécile Kobel with the design process of 10% in 2020, continues to expand day by day with its explosive, angry, sad and stimulating songs.

Hindsight: Cécile Kobel's video about the design process of the book Tracing, follows the creation process and functions as a time capsule.

Endless Flame - the Radiant Archive, exhibition view


* Eternal Flame - The Radiant Archive was first exhibited at the Goethe Institute Sofia between 20 October - 18 November 2022. Parts of the project were demonstrated at the FR2 reactor in Karlsruhe from 16 May to 19 July 2019.


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