Toxic Atmospheres is a presentation by editorial board member of Scapegoat, Elise Misao Hunchuck, on her ongoing research into the Human Exclusion Zone that surrounds the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (also known as the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation (Зона відчуження Чорнобильської АЕС), the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, or, the Zone). The Zone may officially be designated a human exclusion zone, but it is far from empty and certainly does not exclude humans. It is a highly managed landscape, requiring some 3000 workers who continue to build and maintain containment and transportation infrastructures, decommission reactors, monitor radioactive contamination, and research the ongoing effects upon flora and fauna. In recent years the Zone has garnered an international reputation as a site of post-nuclear re-wilding and, of course, dark and toxic tourism.
Sites are bound by property or containment lines, yet their material relationships extend over untold distances. This ongoing research traces the movement of material between landscapes, using hard and soft infrastructures. Sometimes this movement is reciprocal and sometimes it is not. In Landscapes of Post-History (2018), Ross Exo Adams claims that landscapes function both as archives and historiographical texts. In this presentation, the audience is invited to participate in tracing the histories, present and futures of Chernobyl's infrastructures and all of their materials and mediations: as circulating, sedimenting, leaking, crystallizing, sinking, diffusing, melting and even petrifying.
In so doing, the framing of Chernobyl as a distinct political ecology may, in Adams’ words, serve to “deliberately outline an activism by which to achieve a certain outcome.” It may also serve to further develop an understanding of landscapes and environmental design as ongoing projects in the immediate present, not limited to the aftermath of emergency. We will explore how toxic landscapes, like those of Chernobyl, continue to condition life and death and power relations.
SCAPEGOAT: Architecture | Landscape | Political Economy is an independent, not-for-profit, annual journal. It is designed to create a context for research and development regarding design practice, historical investigation, and theoretical inquiry. The journal examines the relationship between capitalism and the built environment, confronting the coercive and violent organization of space, the exploitation of labour and resources, and the unequal distribution of environmental risks and benefits. Throughout our investigation of design and its promises, we return to the politics of making as a politics to be constructed.