the project

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background radiation

is an ongoing project by photographer Sulamith Sallmann and media artist Enkidu rankX.

Enkidu rankX grew up in the late 1970s and early 1980s in a French bay between an atomic power plant and a nuclear fuel reprocessing complex while, at the same time, Sulamith Sallmann was raised on the other side of the „Iron Curtain“. In the context of the Cold War and the reactor accident in Chernobyl in 1986, the danger of a nuclear catastrophe was, at that moment in history, not only omnipresent to both of them, but also very likely.

After 1989, the threat initially seemed to have subsided, but in the year 2022 we were finally realizing the risk of nuclear war in this world is still very much real. While in the past technological utopias in particular formed a counterweight to fears about the future we today see ourselves confronted with an acute lack of such alternatives and visions.

When Vladimir Putin seemingly disappeared for ten days in March 2015, Enkidu rankX recorded radio broadcasts from all over the world. These sometimes ciphered or coded messages from private, commercial to military radio stations document an explosion across all networks on all frequencies. Against the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict in 2014, something momentous was just about to happen …

radio play

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The material was used to create the sound collage „Hintergrundstrahlung / Background Radiation“, in which Enkidu rankX raises questions about the civilian and military use of nuclear energy as well as about human paranoia in the face of impending doom. The photographic images of „nuclear landscapes“ by Sulamith Sallmann form a narrative of their own, impressively depicting the tension between idyllic vistas and their very palpable threast. Using sheets of plastics, glass and other semitransparent materials, she organically creates a distorted, alien looking visual vocabulary.

The sound collage and photographs are complemented by the sober and poetic texts of Enkidu rankX, a seismographic as well as prophetic reflection of past, present and future states of anxiety.

„Hintergrundstrahlung / Background Radiation“ is a multimedia artistic manifesto that describes a human condition becoming ever more absurd, while at the same time uttering a globally valid warning cry that couldn‘t be more up to date.

editorial by Paula Böttcher