Americas Society presents Alice Miceli: Projeto Chernobyl, a series of 30 radiographs produced in 2006-2010 and documenting the residual effects of the 1986 Ukrainian nuclear plant explosion. The exhibition, curated by Gabriela Rangel (Artistic Director, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires and former Chief Curator and Director, Visual Arts, Americas Society) and Diana Flatto (Assistant Curator, Americas Society), is the first to bring the series Projeto Chernobyl (Chernobyl Project), by Brazilian artist Alice Miceli (b. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1980), to the United States.
Miceli developed a method of image-making to capture the environmental contamination resulting from the April 26, 1986 disaster. Though gamma radiation continues to be present, it is invisible to the naked eye and to traditional methods of photography that have been used to document the region's ruins. With her innovative radiographic technique, the artist makes the destructive energy visible via direct contact between the radiation and her film, which was exposed in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone for months at a time.
"In Chernobyl, where the defining quality of the environment is the invisible radioactive contamination, which is pervasive but not perceived by our senses, the question of the project became: 'How to look, and by what means?'" Miceli commented. "I see the act of walking through impenetrable spaces as a form of resistance. It's not condoning any of the actions that created these spaces; on the contrary, it's a form of counteraction that confronts them. I'm specifically trying to access and offer a point of view from within the land that has been occupied."
The work considers our world in a new way within lineages of documentary photography and abstraction. "Alice Miceli's work is very unusual and rare within the narratives of Latin American art," said Rangel. "She has a unique niche in her research on questions that affect our bodies in a biopolitical manner. She's one of the few artists concerned with the militarization of the world in the bodies and minds of people today."
The original radiographic negatives are presented as a complete series in light boxes embedded within the walls of the otherwise dark gallery. In addition to the illuminated two-gallery installation, the exhibition comprises a selection of documentary photographs taken by the artist on journeys to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in 2008 and 2009, and a video interview with the artist, including footage of the radiographs' placement and descriptions of her experimental research leading to the radiograph format. Both technically and conceptually complex, Miceli's work questions our ideas of vision, memory, and trauma.
"Miceli's work is increasingly relevant today in Brazil, Latin America, and the rest of the world," said co-curator Diana Flatto. "It raises pressing issues about clean energy and the environment that go beyond the specific moment or place as we are witnessing destruction of the Amazon, depletion of natural resources, and broader climate change."
Rather than recording the historical moment of the disaster in Chernobyl, Miceli captured the energy that endures and will haunt the atmosphere of Belarus and the Ukraine for thousands of years. She terms the areas of her research "impenetrable spaces" where she documents landscapes rendered dangerous by militarization and industrialization.
Alice Miceli: Projeto Chernobyl unearths the layers behind nuclear disaster—a continuous threat to human and environmental safety. Miceli questions the military, economic, and political contexts of damaged landscapes like the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, inviting a confrontation of the history of our society.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated publication including an interview between the co-curators and the artist.
The presentation of Alice Miceli: Projeto Chernobyl is made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the generous support from Galeria Nara Roesler.
Additional support comes from The Cowles Charitable Trust, the Garcia Family Foundation, and the Consulate General of Brazil in New York.
Americas Society gratefully acknowledges the support from the Arts of the Americas Circle members: Estrellita Brodsky; Galeria Almeida e Dale; Kaeli Deane; Diana Fane; Isabella Hutchinson; Carolina Jannicelli; Vivian Pfeiffer and Jeanette van Campenhout, Phillips; Luis Oganes; Roberto Redondo; Erica Roberts; Sharon Schultz; Herman Sifontes; and Edward J. Sullivan.
Americas Society is the premier organization dedicated to education, debate, and dialogue in the Americas. Established by David Rockefeller in 1965, our mission is to foster an understanding of the contemporary political, social, and economic issues confronting Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada, and to increase public awareness and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the Americas and the importance of the inter-American relationship. Americas Society Visual Arts program boasts the longest-standing private space in the United States dedicated to exhibiting and promoting art from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada; it has achieved a unique and renowned leadership position in the field, producing both historical and contemporary exhibitions.
About the artist:
Born in 1980 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Alice Miceli began her education in Paris studying film at the Ecole Supérieure d’Etudes Cinématographiques. She returned to Brazil to study for her graduate degree in art and architecture at Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. In addition to her work in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Miceli has traveled to Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, and Bosnia as a part of her research centered on photographic representation of the space of landmine fields. She has received major awards for her work, including the 2014 PIPA Prize, Rio de Janeiro and the 2015 Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation Grants & Commissions Award, Miami. She has also has held residencies at Yaddo, Bogliasco, Macdowell and Dora Maar House, among others. Her works are held in collections such as the PIPA Institute, the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro and the CIFO Collection. Projeto Chernobyl was exhibited for the first time at the 29th Biennale de São Paulo, 2010, and as an ongoing research at the transmediale festival, Berlin, editions 2007, 2008 and 2009, and the Transitio Festival, Mexico City, 2009.