Half-Life - Himali Singh Soin, Irene Sunwoo, and e-flux Architecture - Editorial


Himali Singh Soin, Irene Sunwoo, and e-flux Architecture

Himali Singh Soin, An Affirmation, video still, 2022. Image courtesy Himali Singh Soin and The Art Institute of Chicago.

December 2022

Half-Life is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the Art Institute of Chicago within the context of its exhibition “Static Range” by Himali Singh Soin, featuring contributions by Kate Brown, Camille Georgeson-Usher, Samia Henni, Sabu Kohso, Talei Luscia Mangioni, Livia Krohn Miller, Radiowaves Collective, and Raqs Media Collective.

Perhaps human existence is inherently a half-life: our time on and with the earth is a perpetual state of flourishing and expiring. The ungraspable mathematics that define the half-life of radioactive materials are at odds with the gentler ecological cycles and rhythms in which our bodies participate. Invisible and toxic, the fallout from nuclear technologies and infrastructures—from the originary, covert realm of weaponry to the public, expansive domain of energy—is carried by wind, water, and soil. Unhindered by geopolitical borders, the slow violence of nuclear contamination rewrites global coordinates across generations, encroaching upon and entangling bodies and sites in unknowable and unthinkable ways. As Joseph Masco has argued, the legacy of the atomic bomb is dually “world-making and world-breaking.”

As radioactive materials drift across the world, new mutant ecosystems arise. As nuclear waste is stored in salt mines, seabeds, and mountains, meadows of flowers have wilted, rivers have become lethargic, forests feverish. While in some nuclear imaginations both the planet and humans gain superpowers, we have begun to share the same ailments as our local environments; our bodies transfusing into nature in unlikely ways. Radioactivity confounds not only the fiber but also the very temporality of our planetary being. A nuclear cosmology demands a new historical orientation—one that reconciles the potential instantaneity of nuclear war with the reality of the multimillennial toxicity of the future.

Like radiation, which is elusive and unpinpointable, nuclear technologies are shrouded in secrecy. And in our enduring nuclear age, secrecy begets speculation. Over the past several months, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted renewed fears of nuclear warfare, coupled with anxieties about the vulnerability of nuclear power facilities caught in the crosshairs of war. Immeasurable and incomprehensible, such future catastrophes are inevitably suspended in imagination and myth—the space of the nuclear sublime.

While secrecy and the sublime are points of entry for investigating the planetary consequences of radioactive fallout, it is essential to give voice to those (human and non-human) protagonists suppressed by political systems of deafening power. All energy is both cosmic and dirty. Yet in order to transition from a system based on depletion to one that nourishes, we can look to and learn from the quiet rebellions, silent protests, and tender acts that have dismantled monolithic narratives of nuclear power and forged new strategies for reimagining and remaking our many worlds.

Half-Life is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the Art Institute of Chicago within the context of its exhibition “Static Range” by Himali Singh Soin.

Colonialism & Imperialism, Architecture
Nuclear War, Postcolonialism, Landscape, Protests & Demonstrations, Cold War
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