Opening 12 maj, at 5–8pm
Artist talk with Anu Ramdas and Christian Danielewitz Saturday, June 10 at 3pm
The exhibition is open May 13–June 18 2017
The exhibition Against the Grain, by the Danish artists Anu Ramdas and Christian Danielewitz, focuses on the radioactive pollution in Inner Mongolia. Due to the recent years of technological development, a ruthless mining industry is now ongoing on other side of the earth. With abstract photographs, film and objects, the artists visualize the complexity around our explosive consumption of everyday technology.
Modern imaging and communication technology has revolutionized the human life. Today, our society is more or less dependent on smart technology. Computers, smart phones, tablets, electric cars and wind turbines all have in common that they contain so-called rare earth elements. The metals are indispensable as they are highly magnetic and provide low resistance to electrical circuits. But in mines where the rare earths elements are extracted there are also high levels of the radioactive substance thorium. Also the residual waste is radioactive and has a major negative impact on the humans and the environment. The half-time of thorium is staggering 14 billion years, about three times the age of the earth.
In the autonomous province of Inner Mongolia in northern China, Bayan Obo, the world’s largest mine for the extraction of rare earth elements is located. Every year, the mine generates millions of tons of radioactive waste which is stored at the Weikuang Dam waste station. With these huge amounts of environmentally hazardous material and polluted water, the area is giant nightmare landscape.
In 2016 Ramdas and Danielewitz travelled to the Weikuang Dam waste station. They brought along 20 light proof envelopes containing black and white large formats negatives. On location at the waste station they injected radioactive material to the envelopes, by using a cannula and let the light sensitive negatives be exposed by the radiation. After the development, the effect is shown as dramatical light explosions, not entirely different from cosmic photographs or extreme close-ups photographed inside the human body. The abstract photographs are seductively beautiful, but at the same time the more serious backside of our technological development is displayed.
In the film Against the Grain, which the exhibition is named after, we see the artists on location at Weikuang Dam. Dressed in white overall, Ramdas injects radioactive material into the envelopes. We also see insects and small animals living on the area. The film was recorded with a camera manufactured in the 1970s when it was common to use thorium to improve the optical capacity of glass. The radioactive substance is thus found on the location where they are filming and in the camera which they are filming with. Today, thorium in cameras has been replaced by rare earth elements, but the problematic surrounding the extraction still remains. What will be the long-term impact on the environment and on people? How involved responsible are we as consumer of these products in this environmental pollution?
Anu Ramdas and Christian Danielewitz have been working together since 2014. Together they have exhibited Hotel Ararat at Polistar in Istanbul and released the book White City / Black Desert – Black City / White Desert. The exhibition Against the Grain was first shown in 2016 in a smaller version at Gallery Image in Aarhus, Denmark.
Anu Ramdas (b. 1980) lives and works in Copenhagen. She is educated at Malmö Art Academy (2004–2006) and at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen (2006–2011). 2009–2010 she was a student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China. Ramdas has had solo exhibitions at Danske Grafikernas Hus in Denmark (2016) and C4 Projects in Denmark (2015). 2015 she participated in Ung Dansk Fotografi at Fotografisk Center in Copenhagen. She is currently employed at the photo laboratory at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.
Christian Danielewitz (b. 1978) lives and works in Copenhagen. He is educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen (2003–2009) and conducted the Research Program at the Center for Contemporary Art in Kitakyushu – Japan in 2009. Danielewitz’s latest solo exhibition Golconda was at the Black Sesame in Beijing (2016). He has participated in a large number of group exhibitions including Ung Dansk Fotografi 2015 at Fotografisk Center in Copenhagen and The Degree of Freedom at -273 Degrees Celsius at Atelier 35 in Bucharest. Danielewitz received Niels Wessel Bagge’s Honorary Legacy 2015 and was the same year awarded Statens Kunstfonds recidency at the Institute for Provocation in Beijing.
The exhibition is supported by Fondet for Dansk-Svensk samarbejde and the Danish Arts Foundation.