Beyond Nuclear International

Requiem for Hiroshima

Images and sounds draw us back to the past with a warning for the present

How do you capture the sound of Los Alamos in New Mexico? Or the Trinity Test site? Or the quiet headstone that marks the original location of the Fermi nuclear pile in Chicago?

Can you hope to evoke through symbolic photographic images the sorrow and the agony that was the Hiroshima atomic bombing while conveying to contemporary audiences just how grave the peril of nuclear war remains?

These were some of the intriguing challenges facing two installation artists who have collaborated in a project they call Afterimage Requiem. It is a partnership that came out of a discovery made by American sound artist, Andrew Paul Keiper, and Japanese-born photographer Kei Ito, as they uncovered a shared history.

Ito’s grandfather was a Hiroshima survivor who lost his mother, brother and a niece to the attack along with his home which was incinerated. Keiper’s grandfather had worked on the Manhattan project, although he could never divulge in what capacity and his secret life extended to having a second, contemporaneous family with his first.

Keiper and Ito were roommates when they learned of their eerie connection. They knew immediately that they should make art together on a subject that was profoundly important to both of them.

What emerged was a moving, transporting and utterly original installation which found a perfect space inside the giant central hall of the War Memorial in Baltimore, also Keiper’s home town. There, 108 of Ito’s images were laid out across the floor, some lit, some in semi-darkness, each one Ito’s own body, captured in a flash of red and white against a dark background.

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Beatrice Fihn

Young, gifted and female. The unexpected face of the nuclear weapons ban and the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

By Linda Pentz Gunter

According to the now much parroted African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.” But what does it take to get a worldwide nuclear weapons ban?

Once upon a time, it might have taken a room full of white men in ties, but not anymore. Today the face of the UN nuclear weapons ban — and the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize that rewarded this achievement — belongs to a 35-year old woman.

That woman is Beatrice Fihn, young, vibrant, Swedish and the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN. Fihn is not the group’s founder (of that, more in an upcoming article), but she has become its face, and it’s a welcome change in a movement that remains very much dominated by elder statesmen.

Fihn is of course quick to point out that “I did not win the prize. 460 NGOs won the prize.” ICAN is made up of constituent organizations from around the world. Together, they navigated a ban process that focused not on the technical and war-fighting capacity of nuclear weapons but on their devastating humanitarian impact.

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Monsieur Hulot’s Nuclear Holiday

French authorities send 500 gendarmes after 15 anti-nuclear activists. The environment minister says his conscience is clear

By Linda Pentz Gunter

On February 22, the French government mounted a military-style assault on a small community of anti-nuclear activists who had been watchdogging, and living on, a site for the country’s proposed high-level radioactive waste dump in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France near the village of Bure. (Just over a week later, authorities were back to again remove protesters this time with tear gas.)

As many as 500 armed gendarmes in riot gear moved in at dawn, with bulldozers, trucks, helicopters, drones and chainsaws to confront about 15 occupiers, self-described “owls.” They had been living in tree houses and lookout towers for the past 18 months, keeping watch over a forest designated to be torn down for the country’s first high-level radioactive waste repository.

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The treehouse “owls” were back in their perches the day after the raid.

The gendarmes broke down doors, tore down the tree houses, demolished encampments and dragged people away under arrest. To justify this stunt, the government of French president, Emmanuel Macron, claimed the zone was a ZAD — zone à défendre or zone to defend — used to justify clearing out what they define as a militant or anarchist occupation that is blocking a development project.

After removing those occupying the Lejuc Wood — designated for ventilation shafts for the dump —they headed to the House of Resistance in Bure, headquarters for the national campaign against the dump, battering down the door and removing residents by force. The House of Resistance has anchored the anti-Bure campaign for 20 years.

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