Wilde Möhre, Falsche Kamille, Bitterkraut

library for radioactive afterlife (plant cycle)

Gessenwiese and Kanigsberg are former uranium mining territories in the GDR (1949–1990). Since 2016, Kriemann undertakes field research with geologists and biologists from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena who study the accumulatation of heavy metals in plants during the re-naturalisation processes (scheduled to 2045) in the area. She identified the three herbs most capable of extracting and storing their environmental pollutants: Falsche Kamille, Wilde Möhre, and Bitterkraut (False Chamomile, Wild Carrot, Ox Tongue). Concerned with the invisibility of radioactivity, Kriemann photographed these three types of herbs and harvested the plant material afterwards. She first engaged in the production of photograms and their captions, which state the material conditions of the plants. Then she made pigments for the production of Héliogravures.

Héliogravure is the oldest procedure for reproducing photographic images. It was first invented in the early 19th century by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and was later perfected by William Henry Fox Talbot. This gravure printing is an elaborate process which enables subtle changes in the gradation of colour. The enigma of the prints is enhanced by tinting the printing plates with pigments containing uranium and other heavy metals from the plants and herbs depicted in the images.

These continual changes to the volumes in the landscape and their afterlife are the conceptual starting point for Susanne Kriemann’s cycle “Pechblende / Library for radioactive Afterlife” (since 2014) of which the photographic series “Wild Carrot, False Chamomile, Ox Tongue” is part of.

Since radioactivity is “monstrous, because it is inaudible, invisible, odorless, and intangible, which, as Martin Repohl demonstrates, categorically alters our relationship to the world even when it is not radioactive: Now we can no longer see or determine if a fragment of the world – for example a landscape, a flower, or an apple – is toxic and deadly, or harmless and beautiful.” (1)

Over the years, Kriemann has developed a radically expanded idea of photography that investigates new systems for registering events and geological periods.

(1) Hartmut Rosa, Unverfügbarkeit, trans. A. Booth (Wien/Salzburg: Residenz Verlag, 2018)

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