VIS 2484: Interdisciplinary Art and Design Practices | Instructor: Malkit Shoshan

By Ayaka Yamashita and Maria Vollas

WEBSITE: Nuclear Fossils

In the early 2020, it is the first time that used nuclear fuel are to be disposed of at the Onkalo Nuclear Plant in Finland and the waste will be contained in the ground and remain radioactive for 100,000 years. 

In 2100, the United Nations declares that all nuclear affected areas should be covered under soil and never be touched again until they become safe again in 102020. 

In 102020, Exclusion Zones are finally declared as safe. It is now permitable to go back and explore the past radioactive exclusion zones.

Indeed, it is not atypical for nuclear waste and radioactivity to be accompanied by such extremely extensive deadlines and prospective timeframes, and it is crucial that we understand what radioactive landscapes mean in this far ahead future.

We are initially travelling a few years later in the future and particularly in 2100, when after reports of multi-generational sickness and health damage due to radioactivity, the UN declares that all nuclear landscapes around the world would be completely closed and the new exclusion zones would be evacuated for the coming thousands of years. In all the cartographies and representations of the Earth, these places would be completely blurred out and erased from the maps, discouraging the human curiosity and interest to explore these areas.  

We are travelling even further to 100,000 beyond our time and particularly in the 102020, imagining a future contemporary archaeological expedition. At that time, our archaeologist is quite excited that the nuclear exclusion zones are finally now open and accessible, after thousands of years of complete evacuation and abandonment. He now obtains maps that clearly show the areas of exploration and he believes there is something beneath the ground, a civilization hidden and covered with soil and wild vegetation.

For his first fieldwork in the forgotten nuclear archaeological sites of Chernobyl and Fukushima, he employs a new technological instrument that detects the history of the ground through sound. Through his first recordings, he uncovers the reality below the ground, buried cities, villages, nuclear plants, elementary schools, cultural centers, homes. Everything is slowly exposed and emerges on the surface, each element reveals its footprint through sound.

The 102020 archaeologist creates a musical composition of nuclear fossils that tells the history of the nuclear archaeological sites of Chernobyl and Fukushima. He engages the audience through sound, inviting the people to engage and embody the sonic environment of the nuclear sites. We are all submerged in the soil, hearing the thousand year old fossils tell their story of how they ended up in the contaminated ground. As we travel to 102020, we are now distant from the cultures that inhabited those areas, we are freed from nostalgia and from any emotional connections, assumptions and preconceptions. We are ignorant individuals that come from the far future, and our focus is to reinterpret and experience nuclear landscapes through their sonic substance. Let us hear what these radioactive grounds have to say.


It is important not only to unreveal the origins of the individual sounds, but also understand those sounds collectively.

“the temporality of the taskscape, while it is intrinsic rather than externally imposed (metronomic), lies not in any particular rhythm, but in the network of interrelationships between the multiple rhythms of which the taskscape is itself constituted”

– Tim Ingold

The sounds exist only because there were the 200 years of the Nuclear Era. If we consider that noises from that era still stain our planet after 100,000 years, what can be our lesson from that?

Connecting to the sound study: While the recording is useful scientifically and historically, it is also interesting to think that the sounds themselves are like “Sound Object” because they cannot be connected easily to the sound sources.