…that creeps from the earth

curated by Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou



A historical beginning is a cut—a cut in the flow of history that sections out a before and an after. In histories of the nuclear age, the cut lies in the summer of 1945, on July 16, in a desert in New Mexico, when the first atomic bomb exploded. That cut is resolutely precise. Yet it fails to account for beginnings and ends that are more fleeting, volatile. Turning our attention to the material foundation of nuclear technologies—uranium—opens the possibility for more historical open-endedness. Fathoming the very materiality of nuclear technologies takes us toward terrains of uranium extraction and their lingering aftermaths. That is, not toward the scene of exception—aka the bomb—but rather closer to what Lauren Berlant (although unconcerned in this case with nuclearity) deems “crisis ordinariness”: when an environmental phenomenon does not engender “the kinds of historic action we associate with the heroic agency a crisis implicitly calls for.”[1] To places and times where “closing is not closure.”[2] Simply put, the closing of nuclear facilities, especially mines, does not equal the closure of the workings of nuclear matter. Histories of the nuclear age should also be studied via less linear conceptualizations of time, taking into account flows, longevity, sequences, loops, open-endedness. This not only allows one to veer from canonical narratives of nuclear history; it also lays bare the longer history of nuclear violence as explored in the exhibition …that creeps from the earth.

Text: Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou

[1] Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2015), 101. With the term “crisis ordinariness”, Belrant, writing from the US and the UK, refers to how decades of neo-liberal governance have worn deep grooves of precarity and inequality.
[2] Jens Ashworth, Notes Made While Falling (London: Goldsmiths Press, 2020), 95.

Inas Halabi, Susanne Kriemann, Sandra Lahire, Sharon Stewart, Valinia Svoronou. The exhibition is accompanied by archival material from the International Institute of Social History (Amsterdam).