We had a quick interview with KitMapper user Alex Ressel to find out more about his recent most project ‘Consequences’. Alex is an artist with a socially engaged practice, working in moving image and sound.
Tell us about your artistic background
I was an Associate Artist at Open School East in 2016. Whilst there, I programmed public events such as a premiere of Susan Schuppli’s film Trace Evidence, and a Nuclear Culture talk with Ele Carpenter, reading groups (covering things like Jussi Parikka’s recent book ‘A Geology of Media’ and the Xenofeminist Manifesto, as well as a series of workshops called ‘Making History’ where participants were invited to make ceramic objects that would fool future archaeologists into thinking that our society is somehow different.
Before Open School East, I studied an MA in Modern European Philosophy at CRMEP in Kingston, and a BA in Fine Art/Art History at Goldsmiths. I often work collaboratively with Kerri Meehan. In 2012 we co-founded Superlative TV, a pirate television station which broadcast in the frequencies left fallow following the digital switchover.
What project are you currently working on?
The project I am presently working on with Kerri took us to the Northern Territory of Australia to explore nuclear culture and storytelling. Nuclear consequences are not limited to isolated locations but encompass the whole world, propagating on weather systems and trade routes. Radioactive isotopes remain dangerous to life for many generations (between 10,000 and 1 million years), for longer than culture will persist as we know it. In order for future generations to be warned of the dangers, living stories that last as long must be created. We will be visiting contended areas in Australia where uranium is mined and nuclear waste is stored. We are also running workshops in Australia and UK to collaboratively create stories and images that could communicate with future generations about the environment.
What is the idea behind ‘Consequences’?
We work with constellations of ideas that frequently move across scales and time frames, personal to historical. This project continues a preoccupation with long duration of time, that Kerri and I have addressed in previous work. Nuclear Culture Australia is motivated by Yvonne Margarula, a Mirarr elder who wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon following the Fukushima reactor meltdown, expressing her people’s sorrow about the event, as the Japanese reactor used uranium mined from their land and they felt responsible.
I am interested in exploring nature as a relation to place, as opposed to a resource. I believe that in a world where anthropogenic climate change is leading to more extreme weathers; drought in Sudan and Kenya and rising sea levels notably affecting Bangladesh, Tuvalu and Kiribati, approaching nature relationally is of increasing urgency. The project will explore this urgent call for a reappraisal of nature, which is bound up with responsibility towards people in the distant future, those who must find ways of living in the world we create.
What issues do you anticipate might arise?
Australia has a history of white Europeans arriving and taking what is not theirs, from settlers and anthropologists, missionaries and miners. The project is so interesting to me because these issues have not gone away, colonial attitudes can still be found in contemporary Australia’s nuclear culture. Sites for nuclear waste dumps are most often proposed on land traditionally owned by Aboriginal people.
Kerri and I are learning as much as we can about this history before we travel to Australia. We will be working out how to ensure the project is not just another extractivism, of taking from a place, without consideration for consequences towards land and culture. In order to navigate contended ground, we will spend time developing the project, trying to find ways of working which are sensitive to the histories and localities of those involved.
We are interested in exploring practices which, I suspect, are formed from localism, from getting to know a place very well. They are practices and methodologies which have arisen out of investing time and energy there, listening to stories about the place from people who have also lived there. As life-long Londoners, I expect that we will have a lot to learn.
How long will the project take from idea to realisation?
We started researching the project in October 2016, and will travel to Australia in July 2017, I don’t know when it will be finished, it might take a lifetime. But it’s leading to many different results. We have run a collaborative video making workshop at Diaspore.space (and potentially elsewhere) in London and will run a revised version at Watch This Space in Alice Springs. We will also make a radio artwork about storytelling and nuclear culture in Australia for broadcast on Resonance FM. We are also going to take photographs and research for a film.
What part of your project journey will you remember as the most exhilarating artistically?
I find meeting and working with people exhilarating. The depth and breadth of experience and knowledge of people is endlessly fascinating. I enjoy learning, so am looking forward to encountering new people and places and experiencing new creative methodologies.
Where can we find your work? Do you have any other work/projects coming up we can keep an eye out for?
You can find lots of our work on Ar-km.com We are probably going to be running another collaborative filmmaking workshop in London, the dates of which are being finalised. Using the framework of the surrealist game consequences, we will invite participants to make a collaborative film.