Inside ATOMS FOR PEACE, 2011, series of 13 photographs, Archival Pigment Prints, framed, various dimensions, edition of 5.
“Atoms for Peace”, the slogan of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), originates in a speech given by Eisenhower in 1953, in which the US-President encouraged the peaceful use of nuclear energy under the umbrella of an international agency. After its foundation in New York in 1957, the IAEA moved to Vienna, where the Vienna International Center has been its administrative base since 1979. Stradtmann’s photographs show interior scenes of the building, which was constructed in the 1970s.
The focus of the IAEA is above all the invisible – nuclear energy. IAEA monitors the production of nuclear power and its use, and sends inspectors to power plants in Iran and North Korea on a regular basis. The visible and public image of the IAEA consists in press conferences with the general secretary Yukiya Amano, for example when he reported on the latest developments in Fukushima in front of an oversized logo of the agency; or the coverage of inspectors in white protective clothing surrounded by machinery and technology which might be used to produce nuclear weapons.
With the series „Inside ATOMS FOR PEACE“, Stradtmann composes an aesthetic image of the IAEA. The photos gain their power from the formal arrangement of deserted spaces and the impression that these spaces belong to a different time: we see abandoned workplaces, empty desks, a lectern with a bouquet of lilies in the foreground, a covered instrument in front of closed blinds, a hat stand, an empty conference room, a turnstile, balloons on desks. Were the workplaces tidied up, did the documents go to the archives to be stored forever? Are the balloons the remains of a farewell party? Have the coats been taken from the hatstand one last time? Does the turnstile lead to a more actual world?
The motifs foreground emptiness and absence. They suggest that the people who lend life and meaning to the IAEA-, have left the building forever. Do the photos point to the future of the agency? With his series Stradtmann raises issues and questions that are of interest to the broader public – and not just since and because of Fukushima. Hasn’t the peaceful use of nuclear energy long since proved to be an illusion? And if so, what is the role of the IAEA?
It is not too farfetched then to see this work as an obituary for the IAEA. At the same time, however, the photos exhibit a strong curiosity about the objects and spatial settings in the agency and the functions that relate to them. Stradtmann is concerned with the inspection of things and spaces, with a look behind the scenes, providing insights into and images of things that usually remain invisible or go unnoticed. Like the operative function of the IAEA safety inspectors, the work provides documentation on an agency which pursues its tasks in the science fiction interior of the 1970s – a time when people still euphorically believed in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.” (Text: original published in German).
Text: Marcus Pfeil, 2012, Author
left: “Rednerpult und Lilien”, right: “Drehkreuz”
left: “Saal II, Luftballons”, right: “Saal I, Sessel”
“Rednerpult und Lilien”
“Saal III, Schloss”
“Tür und Gemälde”
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