ENTANGLEMENTS: Rosemary Joyce on Nuclear Landscapes

Rosemary Joyce (Berkeley), “Nuclear Landscapes”
8 April 2021, 20:00hrs CET, on Zoom

Registration opens 8 March 2021, on this page.

The global nuclear industry has for decades used sites like Stonehenge to justify designs for long-term markers to be placed over nuclear waste repositories to ensure they are not violated in distant, imagined futures. In the US, the result has been a proposal to build a pre-formed archaeological site, a ruin that would qualify for listing as a World Heritage site in the future if it were ever implemented. Alternative proposals, some emerging from the same planning process, others from activism in opposition to the nuclear industry, propose a variety of aesthetic installations as alternative ways of marking the contaminated landscapes under construction.

Whether based in cultural heritage thought or artists imagination, these proposals share a conception of the sites involved, located in the dry western United States, as a “sacrifice zone” conceived of as desert-ed, as inimical to human habitation, despite the actual presence of indigenous peoples for whom these lands are home. Moving back and forth between the proposals rooted in cultural heritage thinking, and those aligned with art worlds, this talk questions how both imagine human intentions as singularly effective in structuring place over spans of thousands of years. An archaeological sensibility on how materials endure and decay supports questioning the intelligibility of landscape scale installations conceived of as simple visual markers, and demands that we think about how such marks might be encountered in futures like those imagined by authors of science fiction or artists responsible for large scale “Land Art” installations.

Rosemary Joyce received the PhD from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1985, with a dissertation based on 32 months of archaeological fieldwork in Caribbean Honduras. As a curator and faculty member in anthropology at Harvard University from 1985 to 1994, she began to develop research on archaeology of gender and sexuality drawing on feminist and queer theory to frame the recursive relationship between enacting an embodied form of selfhood and engaging with external imagery of embodiment as precedent for gendered performance.

She moved to the University of California, Berkeley in 1994, initiating archaeological fieldwork in Honduras on the emergence of settled farming villages before 1500 BC, that began her explorations of the liveliness of geological materials, employing monist ontological understanding of humans and non-humans acting together aligned with the “agential realism” of Karen Barad. Her most recent book examines the intersection of future-oriented think and present-day thinking about the future in the past that converges around the concept of “monument”.

Image: Spikes Bursting through Grid. After Kathleen M. Trauth, Stephen C. Hora, and Robert V. Guzowski, Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (Albuquerque, NM: Sandia National Laboratories, 1992), Fig. 4.3- 5, credited to Michael Brill.

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