Caesium Forest Screening at State of the Art, Berlin – July 10th, 2015 followed by a conversation with the film-maker and Ashkan Sepahvand (technosexuality reading group).
Caesium Forest is a feature-length video and text that traces the radioactive origin of techno-utopia, its failures and its futures, through a little known ecological experiment. Caesium Forest also attempts to hide the realized failure of a personal yet inherited idealism behind a broader socio-political frame – along the way getting lost in an irradiated but photogenic American West. The “Caesium Forest Experiment” conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee was crucial for proving the legitimacy of ecology as a “Big Science”. In this 1962 experiment, ecologists injected radioactive caesium into the trees. By watching the radiation’s movement, the scientists were able to prove the complex yet interconnected nature of ecosystems – as we know them today. Importantly the scientists were also able to predict the behaviour of energy within a given system (telling the future so-to-speak). These test-sites were nicknamed “Hot Forests”. The broader historical context for this experiment was the successful application and use of cybernetics for producing “big technology” – namely the atomic bomb and the space shuttle. The key idea of feedback (for prediction) was not only used for the scientific development of these technologies, but it was also an integral workplace ideology for creating inter-disciplinary research cultures, like Norbert Weiner’s RAD Lab at MIT.
Caesium Forest as a film and essay follows the leak and diffusion of this “predictive” ideology. In particular, looking at the role of faith, its affective and bodily presentation, when orientated towards “big technology” or more generally, the future. Accompanying the film is an essay that interprets these historical contexts through visual ethnographic data. The text speculates on how these early signs of techno-reverence are emerging as a planetary-order called Sunshinism.
watch trailer here.
Arjuna Neuman was born on an airplane, that’s why he has two passports. He shows his work internationally with recent exhibitions and screenings in Germany at State of the Art and Haus Der Kulturen der Welt; in Lebanon at Ashkal Alwan and Beirut Art Centre; in Canada at the Canadian Centre for Architecture and theRichmond Art Gallery; in France at Le Gaite Lyric; in Australia at Verge Gallery Sydney University; in Russia at the Moscow Museum; in USA at the Torrance Art Museum, Machine Projects and Human Resources amongst others. As a writer he has published articles in Relief Press, Into the Pines Press, The Journal for New Writing, VIA Press, Concord Press, Flaunt, Art Voices, and he is currently working on a text for e-flux on geopolitical divine right.
Ashkan Sepahvand is a writer, translator, and researcher. His practice traces associations from within the histories of the body, the sensory, sexuality, imagination, celebration, transformation, futurity, queerness, collectivity, ritual, and the self. From 2012-2014, he was a research fellow for “The Anthropocene Project” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, where he co-edited the publication “Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain, Vapor, Ray” (MIT Press: 2015). His work and writings have been presented at dOCUMENTA (13), Ashkal Alwan, Institute for Contemporary Arts London, Former West, Sharjah Biennial X, Al-Ma’mal Foundation, the Barber Shop, Kunstwerke, and Kunsthaus Bregenz. He lives and works in Berlin, where he organizes the technosexual reading circle.