Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden, Germany
From: 18 March 2012
Until: 6 May 2012
Keeping Up Appearances
Mon 2pm-8pm, Weds-Fri 2pm-6pm, Sat and Sun 11am–6pm
On our recent tour of Australia we came across Sydney-based artists Ken + Julia Yonetani who, in the past, have worked with a variety of materials including sugar, salt, clay and wood to create sculptural installations with a message about mankind’s impact on the environment. For their latest project however, the husband and wife team have taken a significant step forward and fashioned a set of chandeliers - from uranium.
Crystal Palace: the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nuclear Nations, has been created to mark the one year anniversary, on March 11, of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan. It goes on show, as part of a group exhibition called Keeping Up Appearances, at the Nassauischer Kunstverein in Wiesbaden, Germany (18 March-6 May).
The work comprises three vintage chandeliers the crystals on each replaced with uranium glass beads. The duo used UV light in place of normal bulbs, causing the uranium glass to glow green. They plan to make 30 chandeliers – roughly one for each nuclear nation. The three chandeliers on show in Germany represent the host country, Japan and Finland. The size of each work corresponds to the nuclear output of that particular nation. The couple are currently working on a French chandelier in an Empire style.
Julia tells Phaidon: “The idea emerged after Fukashima. We were both born in Tokyo and grew up there so we were both really shocked by it. It’s such an emotional issue for us we thought how can we turn it into an artwork? Chernobyl (the Russian nuclear power plant disaster of 1986) was one warning, Fukushima is another. But we don’t seem to be heeding these warnings and are building more nuclear plants.
“We were in London when we had the idea of using chandeliers, travelling on the top deck of a bus near Sloane Square,”Julia continued. “Most of the fashion shops seemed to have these ornate chandeliers and it seemed that they had become like an icon of consumerism. They look beautiful at night and show the mysterious beauty of electricity.”
It’s one thing working with salt, sugar or clay but quite another working with a hazardous material. “When you’re touching it all the time it definitely has an impact on the work,” says Ken.“One thing we wanted to explore was the fear of radiation and that’s what people in Japan have been living with for the last year.”
The pair have taken Geiger counter readings off the work and insist that it gives off a reading only slightly above normal background radiation level when the viewer stands 30cm from the works. Read more about Keeping Up Appearances.