The Atomic Priesthood: A visual investigation into fiction’s ability to shape reality and the future of nuclear waste.

I’ve been debating whether or not to put my own art work on my blog or to just keep it separate, however, I’ve decided to share it with you all. I’d really love you’re honest thoughts and input(but please be gentle). This project is the result of all my studio work in the first semester of my second year of studying Fine Art. I based this whole project around the idea of anthropocentricity/Anthropocene Era (definition below) with special attention to nuclear energy.

ANTHROPOCENE: The period of time during which human activities are thought to have had a significant impact on the global environment, regarded as having begun sometime between eight thousand years ago, with the spread of agriculture, and two hundred years ago, with the advent of industrialisation. The Anthropocene has been proposed as a new epoch of geologic time, following the Holocene.
Sacred Decay (fig. 1), LED strip stuck to the inside of a plaster cast of the model of a church made originally of modelling card,  60 x  25 x 30 cm
Sacred Decay (fig. 1) detail

My work is entrenched in questions surrounding the future of humanity in the wake of their discovery of nuclear power and its consequential relationship with the environment. This was a concept I first centred on having visited Venice Biennale, where most pavilions centred on themes of climate change and extinction anxiety. Reading Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus (link below) at the timeI was astounded by his predictions that our species would evolve beyond our cognitive comprehension. This linked strongly to Ane Gaff’s work at the Biennale, in Ethnologies of a homespun spinelessness cult and other neighbourly relations(2019)(Reference 1), where she used installation to explore the varied relations between human and nonhuman as life on earth as we know is threatened by human activity. I adopted this confrontational stance, using art to re-evaluate our responsibility as humans and start acknowledging our legacy. The sculpture’s organic nature fed into my plaster sculpture, Sacred Decay (fig.1), which seemed to grow on around the shape of the man-made church structure. This unites the theme of the atomic priesthood with humanity’s relationship with nature.

‘A Message From Our Generation to Yours’ (2019), video (Fig.2)

Furthering my interest was Michael Madsen’s Into Eternity(2010)(Reference 2), a documentary about a Finnish nuclear power plant faced with the challenge of ensuring it stays untouched for the next millennia. Through the power of film, Madsen creates a haunting reflection on the mortality of humanity and how we create something that will outlast ourselves and everything we understand – the challenge indeed is “to remember to forget” (Madsen, 2010). This challenged me to experiment further with film, using it as a medium to communicate with the future generations as seen in A Message From Our Generating To Yours(fig.2). When researching nuclear energy, it became clear what was originally viewed as the solution to climate change, “a fire so powerful that it could never be extinguished” (Madsen, 2010), is a horrific legacy of ours endangering not only for future generation but the  whole Earth and all life forms. By using samples in my experimental video – Anthropocentrism(fig.3) – from the Panorama’s ‘If The Bomb Drops’(1980) and nuclear holocaust film, ‘The Day After’(1983), I was able to explore these fears in reference to the past and future of nuclear power.

‘Anthropocene’ (2019), video (Fig.3)

In Care Notes(2019)(Reference 3) Ian Nesbitt not only uses film to present the complex ecological relationships but presents a futile attempt at apologising to nature for all the harm humanity has caused; layering the text from John Newling’s Dear Nature(2017)(Reference 4) piece, Nesbitt touches on the very intimate relationship between man and nature. This inspired my series of hand-written love letters to Earth from Homo Sapiens(Fig.4) and my feature of the natural environment in A Message From Our Generating To Yours(fig.2). The irony of this work remains that we may never be able to communicate with nature, hence the art pieces stand as a meditation for humanity instead and perhaps a call to action in improving that relationship in the future. Nesbitt also inspired my exploration of alternative modes of communication as he used Morse as a background noise for his video as seen in my work in figure 2 and the use of code in Figure 5, The Order of the Atomic Priesthood website.

(Fig.5) Fictional Keepsake, plaster cast

Humanities ability to “weave intersubjective realities” (Harari, 2017) is what makes them so unique in their ability to form civilisations, hence when the UN commissioned the Human Interference Task Force to solve this problem, Thomas Sebeok presented the idea of the ‘Atomic Priesthood’(the concept which directly inspired my web piece, fig.6). Stemming from the remarkable power of religion to not only install obedience through a supernatural order but also be preserved, he suggested it be created to deceive future generations into compliance. I fixated on the idea as it explored the nature of contemporary religious institutions, human communication, our future as a species and our relationship to the planet. I was reminded of the work of Avi Lubin’s work at the Biennale, Field Hospital X (2019)(Reference)as it was an interactive piece which replicated a hospital environment – she used an immersive, imitative environment to produce obvious connotations and make certain statements about society’s inability to deal with emotional traumas, to the extent that the theatrics were close enough to reality to fool me into thinking it was an actual hospital on site. I used this method in my own work through producing a website (Fig.6) for the pseudo-religion, creating a whole doctrine, hierarchy and community in a fictional narrative. I adapted the religious vestments of Catholicism, fused ironically with a laboratory coat, to comment on the religiosity of contemporary science(fig. 7). Fictional Keepsake(fig.5) is a piece of fictional archaeology which represents these ideas.


‘Knowledge, risk, and policy support: Public perceptions of nuclear power’, Energy Policy, Volume 62, 2013, Pages 176-184,

Bayliss, C. R., 2003. Nuclear decommissioning, waste management, and environmental site remediation. London: Butterworth-Heinemann

BBC RADIO 4, 2019, Anniversary of the Periodic Table[podcast]. BBC. [10/10/19]. Available at:

Bell, David, 2019. Ian Nesbitt: Care Notes (Film)[online]. LU Arts Fest. [viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via

Bianchini, Riccardo, 2019. Weather Report: Forecasting Future – Nordic Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019[online]. inexhibit. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via

Brougher, Kerry, 2008. The cinema effect: illusion, reality and, and the moving image. London: Giles

Care Notes, 2019, . Directed by Ian Nesbitt, RADAR. Loughborough: LU Arts

Cumming, Laura, 2019. Venice Biennale 2019 review – preaching to the converted[online]. The Guardian. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

DANIEL ARSHAM, 2019. Grey Selenite Eroded Ptolemee [seletine, quartz, hydrostone]. In: 76 Rue De Turenne 75003 Paris France. [Viewed on 10/10/2019]Accessed via:

Demos, T.J. (2013) ‘Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology’, Third Text, 27:1, 1-9

Elwes, Catherine, 2015. Installation and the moving image. New York: Wallflower Press

England, Sara, 2019. Lines, Waves, ‘Contours: (Re)Mapping and Recording Space In Indigenous Sound Art’, Public Art Dialogue, vol. 9, no. 1, Spring 2019. pp. 8-30.

Grant, J 2011, ‘Hearing things: Inside outness and “sonic ghosts”’, TechnoeticArts: A Journal of Speculative Research, vol. 9, no. 2/3, pp. 217–223

Greenleigh, Geoffrey, 1998. The Future of Nuclear Power. London: Graham & Trotman

Groth, S., & Samson, K., 2017. Sound Art Situations. Organised Sound, 22(1), p.101-111

Harari, Noah Yuval, 2015. Homo Deus. London: Harvill Secker

HELEN MCCRORIE, 2019. If play is neither inside nor outside, where is it? . In: Collective, City Observatory, 38 Calton Hill, EH7 5AA

Into Eternity, 2010, [documentary]. Directed by Michael Madsen , Atmo Media Network, Finland: distributed in the UK by Amazon Prime Video (UK)

JOHN NEWLING, 2017. Dear Nature[soil bowls]. Accessed via:

Kaufman, Rachel (2011). “Ray Cats, Artificial Moons and the Atomic Priesthood: How the Government Plans to Protect Our Nuclear WasteMental Floss. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

Kaufman, Rachel (2011). Ray Cats, Artificial Moons and the Atomic Priesthood: How the Government Plans to Protect Our Nuclear Waste[online]. Mental Floss. [viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via: 

Lubin, Avi, 2019. About. Field Hospital X[online]. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via

M.Nelson, Russell, 2019. My 2020 Invitation to You: Share the Message of the Restoration of the Savior’s Gospel[online]. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

Martin, Sylvia, 2006. Video Art. London: Taschen

Matthew Sansom (2015) Dissolving Dualities: Onto-epistemological Implications of Ecological Sound Art, Contemporary Music Review, 34:4,267-280

Meigh-Andrews, Chris, 2006. A History of Video Art. A&C Black Ed. 2013, London: Bloomsbury

Musch, Sebastian, 2016. ‘The Atomic Priesthood and Nuclear Waste Management’. Zygon – Journal of Religion and Science, Vol.51, Issue 3, p. 626-639

N/A, 2019. How To Start a Religion[online]. Wikihow. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

N/A, 2019. ONKALO Project[online]. ONKALO. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

N/A, 2019. ONKALO[online]. POSIVA. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

N/A, 2019. What is Scientology?[online]. Scientology: London. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

N/A(2019), ‘How to Send A Message 10,000 Years Into The Future[online]. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

Newling, John, 2019. Dear Nature[online]. John Newling. viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via

Rush, Michael, 2007. Video Art. London: Thames & Hudson

Sebeok, Thomas, 1986. Pandora’s Box in Aftertimes in

Stanford, Peter, 2011. ‘Roman Catholic Church[online]’. BBC. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via:

The Ray Cat Solution, 2015, [documentary]. Directed by Benjamin Huguet, EDF. France

Thomas A. Sebeok, Pandora’s Box in Aftertimes. In: I  think I am a verb : more contributions to the doctrine of signs,  Springer, 1986, pp. 149-173

Trodd, Tamara Jane, 2011. Screen/space: the projected image in contemporary art. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Van de Graaff, Shashi. ‘Understanding the nuclear controversy: An application of cultural theory’, Energy Policy, Volume 97, 2016, Pages 50-59

W. Stoutenborough, James, G. Sturgess, Shelbi, Vedlitz, Arnold

Wain, Anna-Rose, 2019. From Doll Asylums to Anthropic Machines: how the 58th Venice Biennial embodies contemporary turmoil[online}. Organised Chaos. Viewed on: 10/11/19] Accessed via

Categories DIGITAL ART

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close