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Griffiths, DA., 2016.

Deep Field [Unclear Zine]

Output Type:Artefact

Deep Field [Unclear Zine] contributes to urgent interdisciplinary discussion about the growing physical and cultural presence of radioactivity. What does it mean to bury and remember nuclear waste for hundreds of thousands of years? This research tested the possibility of microfilm media to act as an archival tool in marking a site of toxic presence. Artists offer different perspectives to scientists who are tackling this social and environmental emergency. Deep Field [Unclear Zine] documents scientists and citizens in a Belgian nuclear zone, engaging archival media to narrate the multiple troubling affects in a burdened community. Their complex remit is to manage the nation's legacy of nuclear waste, negotiate potential megaprojects for its safe deep-time disposal, and resolve how these decisions and places should be communicated to protect the biohazard from contact by future generations.

Using its original storytelling method of microtopia, this research documents interweaving times and spaces that construct the heterotopia of the nuclear zone. A past of colonial uranium exploitation overlaps with an anxious present, and uncertain future. These diverse narratives are assembled in a zine, which is published in the miniaturising medium of microfilm, to be expanded and browsed in the gallery using simple magnifying apparatus.

Fieldwork documented the zone's experimental technology and micropolitics through photography, conversations and performance. Employing Haraway's 'SF' storytelling, this 'science-fact' was also re-narrated as 'speculative fabulation', inventing fictional characters and scenarios in poetry and comics-art. Both factual and speculative modes were collaged to create a single microfilm sheet - producing a zine that critically depicts journeys of nuclear materiality entangled in the compressed techno-scientific infrastructure.
The research has yielded a new method for contemporary media art to discuss how troubled places may be counter-witnessed and memorialised. Analogue microfilm - which can last 500 years - could enact an additional archival modality to overcome the limitations of short-lived digital records or physical monuments. This insight was shared through a touring exhibition and accompanying public roundtables and noted by archaeologists on the AHRC-funded Heritage Futures programme. Deep Field also crossed into art-science and new-materialist theory networks through STEAM engagement events, conference panels and a book chapter.