Rooted in an interest in the ‘aesthetics of destruction,’ Nadav Kander's Dust explores the vestiges of the Cold War through the radioactive ruins of secret cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia. It's about to be exhibited in New York for the first time.
Priozersk (formally known as ‘Moscow 10’) and Kurchatov are closed cities, restricted military zones, concealed and not shown on maps until they were ‘discovered’ by Google Earth. Enlisted to the pursuits of science and war, the sites were utilized for the covert testing of atomic and long distance weapons.
Falsely claimed as uninhabited, the cities, along with nearby testing site ‘The Polygon’, set the stage for one of the most cynical experiments ever undertaken. Scientists watched and silently documented the horrifying effects of radiation and pollution on the local population and livestock.
Demolished to preserve their military secrets, the areas now consist predominantly of the ruinous architecture and desolate landscapes featured in Kander’s haunting photographs. A result of the Cold War and of the relentless quest for nuclear armaments, the ruins stand as accidental monuments to the melancholic, dark and destructive side of human nature.
Kander’s photographs, as such, portray such settings as stake facts. Yet they have, in their shape and locale, a distinct poeticism, as if secrets exist in the silence of the monuments, bowing under heavy skies.
Describing what he saw as “empty landscapes of invisible dangers,” Kander’s images evoke his sense of “awe and fear.”
As Will Self writes in his foreword to Dust: “These images do not make beautiful what is not, they ask of us that we repurpose ourselves to accept a new order of both the beautiful and the real.”
Nadav Kander, born in 1961 in Israel, is best known for Yangtze – The Long River, the series which earned him the prestigious Prix Pictet award in 2009. His commissioned work include Obama’s People, an acclaimed 52 portrait series commissioned by The New York Times Magazine, and recent portraits for the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Road to 2012, about Britain’s Olympic athletes.
He has exhibited at venues like the Palais de Tokyo, the Herzilya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel and the Musée De L’Elysee, Lausanne.