Monday, November 15, 2010

Into Eternity (2010)

The focus of Michael Madsen's new documentary Into Eternity -- about the inconceivable task of securing nuclear waste deep underground for thousands of years -- is Onkalo in Finland. The Americans have a similar facility called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) located near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Not least among the problems faced by designers of such places is how to signpost a site for curious visitors poking around the site in, say, 10,000 years time.
Landscape of Thorns, concept by Michael Brill and drawing by Safdar
Abidi, from Marking the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for 10,000 Years

'Like the gaze of the exorcist, the gaze of the pollution-plagued contemporary is directed at something invisible. The risk society marks the dawning of a speculative age in everyday perception and thought. [...] Not until the step to cultural risk consciousness is everyday thought and imagination removed from its moorings in the world of the visible. In the struggle over risks of modernization we are no longer concerned with the specific value of that which appears to us in perception. What becomes the subject of controversy as to its degree of reality is instead what everyday consciousness does not see, and cannot perceive: radioactivity, pollutants and threats in the future' (Ulrich Beck, Risk Society 73)