Things at the same time: Creating work during Sound Ecologies Lab

Gizem Senturk

The second part of FIBER Festival’s Reassemble Lab took place from 25 -30 October 2021. Under the title Sound Ecologies, we collectively explored how sound can make audible the invisible affects of the Anthropocene. The lab invited artistic creators, researchers and scientists to collaborate in a peer-to-peer setting, through a combination of lectures, workshops, and fieldwork to support group research and work development. We took Borselle as our case study, an area in the Netherlands where we set out to capture the often untraceable interactions between industry, engineering and ecology. Below Gizem Senturk writes about their involvement with the lab, as both researcher and maker.

One of the components of ‘Things at the same time’. Made with distorting, juxtaposing and mutating photographs taken at De Kaloot beach digitally to emulate how radiation changes matter.

Between 25–30 October, I was a participant in FIBER Festival’s Sound Ecologies Lab as a researcher. It coincided with the time where I started embracing the identities of both researcher and artist, which brought me to Things at the same time, a collaborative work between myself, Loden Rietveld and Colette Aliman.

The idea of Things at the same time started with our field trip as a group to De Kaloot and COVRA, a nuclear waste management facility in the Netherlands. The only one, in fact. This trip brought questions of nuclear time, as the site itself carries multiple temporalities within. In a single space, it holds past, present and the future: the archaeological past is there as it is a prolific area with many items found in archaeological excavations ranging from shark teeth found in the area to more recent remnants of sponges that were used to clean pipes of the nuclear plant. The present is full of our nuclear worries even though the Borssele Nuclear Power Plant and COVRA face each other like old friends, playing a danışıklı dövüş game. The future, taking up the immense load of the nuclear activity ,was on our minds the whole trip.

After seeing the inner mechanisms of a nuclear waste management facility and the exterior of a nuclear power plant (as we didn’t go inside), I started to think about locality. I wasn’t from the area. I wasn’t even from the country. How could I ground myself in an area where I had no memories?

The questions of belonging and memories took me on an international, nuclear trip: I started thinking about the biggest nuclear disaster (yet): the nuclear explosion of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. I only started to think about it as my own nuclear memories were connected to it. I am from the Black Sea region of Turkey. Well, my father is. I’m also from the Thrace region, as my mother’s family is located there. Although there are a million things to consider when I think about my own history as a Turkish person, the nuclear turn was inevitable after the trip to De Kaloot and COVRA. The Black Sea region was the area that got most affected by the Chernobyl disaster. Numbers are not clear, as there hasn’t been comprehensive research on it, but it is safe to say that thousands of people were affected.

‘Things at the same time’

Every family from the Black Sea region in Turkey knows someone who had cancer. Every family knows someone who has heart problems. Every family from the Black Sea has a history with nuclear activity.

With thoughts of family, memory and nuclear disasters in mind, I started going through the photos I had taken during the field trip. I had an intimate moment with the foam that covered the whole coast as a result of the power plant. I am still not sure what it was, but I was fascinated by it. I came as close to it as possible; although it was scary to think about touching a radioactive material. But I am a queer ecologist after all, the idea of becoming one with the foam was too attractive to pass up.

As I shot my short video where I try to become the landscape full of foam, I knew it would be my centrepiece for the whole workshop. Even though I was there as a researcher, the situated knowledge of being there and staying with the foam was urging me to create a visual work.

The rest of the visuals came easily: even though the question of whether I was enough of an artist was creeping in, I wanted to replicate the nuclear activity. Somehow.

Nuclear activity is unpredictable. It has some human control to it, well, sometimes. It can damage, it can create, but it cannot be understood fully, mostly because our temporalities don’t match.

The visuals I created have these methodologies in mind. However, something was missing. I was too alone in this.

That was when Loden Rietveld and Colette Aliman entered. Their valuable and amazing sound work merged the landscapes of De Kaloot, poetry and Turkish nuclear experience as one. My inexperience with sound work didn’t stop me from realising that the sound piece was an integral part to Things at the same time. It felt as if our processes of creation were feeding into each other, and we were losing locality as we were looking for it. Our discussions on nuclear activity and belonging were ending in a negative: there is no local nuclear. It cannot be reduced to one place at one time. It expands and continues.

It never ends. It all happens at the same time.

Locality. Repetition. Collapse. Nuclear. Oh, electricity.

Things at the same time rearranges soundscapes and images collected at De Kaloot and COVRA. It reflects, compresses, dissects the landscape with a nuclear mind.

Nuclear power corrupts locality as its impact can be found kilometres away, years later and felt by different communities. Borssele nuclear power plant, de Kaloot beach and nuclear waste management facility COVRA inspired Things at the same time as the landscape brings together archeological past, nuclear present and anxious futures. The work examines the ideas of collecting artefacts as opposed to localising art practices, repetitive yet unique impacts of nuclear power and bridges unexpected connections to Turkey through Chernobyl.

Written by: Gizem Senturk

Edited by: Rhian Morris

Gizem Senturk is a researcher and visual artist interested in the intersections of queer theory and ecology. They are currently studying Environmental Humanities at VU Amsterdam and creating visuals with a nuclear mind. Recently, they have been incorporating artistic approaches to their academic research and read as many comics as possible.

https://www.instagram.com/extremelygiz/

Amsterdam based platform and festival for audiovisual art, digital culture and electronic music. Upcoming events: FIBER Festival 2020, September 24–27.