Unsettling Landscapes

Netherlands, 2022


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“No more roads, no riverbank, no directions; a flat substance going nowhere, suspending mankind’s development, detaches him, from any rationale, from any utility of places.”

Roland Barthes

The project Unsettling Landscapes wishes to focus on the intimate and the sense of alienation of the nuclear contaminated landscape. The projects wish to explore the lived, bodily experience of radiation and question what it means to live with the threat of invisible contagion today. By providing reflections on place and subjectivity, it point to larger phenomena that underlie visible landscapes as well as stimulate discussion on how to acknowledge and responsibly address the consequences of the nuclear age.

The photo project ‘Unsettling Landscapes’ research the disturbed relationship between humans and nature, the experience with 'post-human' landscapes due to radioactive contamination. A threat that is beyond our senses, we can't feel, see, hear, or smell it.  

Phenomena as radioactive contamination are difficult to grasp, describe and visualize precisely because their spatial and temporal scales are disproportionate and monumental, while simultaneously intimately present. The feeling of alienation and intimacy are the starting point for this exhibition.

During a residency in Fushima, Japan 2014, van Veen was confronted with the consequences of the nuclear disaster that took place in March 2011, when a tsunami hit and damaged the Daiichi nuclear power plant. Nuclear pollution contaminated the landscape of Fukushima. The effects on the landscape and the people who had to clean it, resulted in the short experimental film ‘哀れ aware’ and a documentary next to cyanotypes, they were part of an exhibition in Museum Siebolthuys in Leiden.

Between 2016-2020, the focus of the research shifted to Fort de Vaujours in France, 20 km from Paris, a site where many nuclear tests were developed and conducted for the 'Guerboise Blue', the first atomic bomb detonated in the desert of Algeria. This abandoned and enclosed site has been sold to the largest plaster company in France, which wants to excavate the site with all its consequences.

In addition to the photos, made with a self-built camera and various photo techniques (such as toyobo, chine collé and photographic reliefs made with a lasercutter), a short version of the film ‘Unsettling Dust’ was realised.

Invitation(PDF)Jegens & Tevens(PDF)if then is now(PDF)