"Discovering the vestiges of the Cold War: secret cities and radioactive ruins
Rooted in an interest in the ‘aesthetics of destruction,’ Nadav KANDER’s most recent project 'Dust' explores the vestiges of the Cold War through the radioa-ctive ruins of secret cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia.
Priozersk (formally known as ‘Moscow 10’) and Kurchatov are closed cities, restricted military zones, concealed and not shown on maps until they were ‘discovered’ by Google Earth.
Enlisted to the pursuits of science and war, the sites were utilized for the covert testing of atomic and long distance weapons. Falsely claimed as uninhabited, the cities, along with nearby testing site ‘The Polygon’ set the stage for one of the most cynical experiments ever undertaken. Scientists watched and silently documented the horrifying effects of radiation and pollution on the local population and livestock.
Demolished to preserve their military secrets, the areas now consist predo-minantly of the ruinous architecture and desolate landscapes featured in KANDER’s hauntingly beautiful photographs.
Fascinated by the area’s past and driven by discovery, KANDER’s photographs portray stark fact and bleak setting with a characteristic poeticism.
Secrets seem to seep from the silence of the crumbling monuments, bowing under heavy grey skies. Describing what he saw as ‘empty landscapes of invisible dangers’ Kander’s images evoke his sense of awe and fear as he responded to these places and to the weight of their history."
"When Nadav KANDER learned of the existence of two 'closed' cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia, he knew that he would have to visit them.
For 'Dust' he photographed the desolated landscapes of the Aral Sea and captured fascinating images of the restricted military zones of Priozersk and Kurtchatov, which did not appear on any map until well after the end of the Cold War. Long-distance missiles were tested in Priozersk under great secrecy. Hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated in the so-called Polygon near Kurchatov until the program ended in 1989. The bombs were exploded in a remote but still populated area, and covert studies were made of the effects of the radiation on the unsuspecting inhabitants. Kander writes how the ticking of the Geiger counter on his belt while he photographed reminded him that he should not become too enthralled with the aesthetic and painterly allure of the crumbling ruins." (publisher's note, © Hatje Cantz, 2014)
"'Dust' explores decommissioned military zones and cities of the former USSR found along the current border of Russian and Kazakhstan.
These places (there are four in total), are largely abandoned having been left uninhabitable by weapons experimentation and chemical runoff. What Kander captures of them is a haunting beauty that lingers in the borderland of nightmare." (© Christopher J. Johnson)
About the photographer, Nadav KANDER (b. 1961):
Nadav KANDER is a recipient of the renowned 'Prix Pictet' and one of today’s most successful photographers.
- Rencontres d’Arles, Prix Pictet Retrospective, July 7-September 21, 2014
- Flowers gallery, London, September 9 - October 11, 2014
- Torch gallery, Amsterdam, opening November 2014
"Auf den Spuren des Kalten Krieges: verbotene Städte und verstrahlte Ruinen
Als Nadav KANDER (*1961), Träger des renommierten 'Prix Pictet' und einer der international erfolgreichsten Fotografen, von der Existenz zweier 'geschlossener' Städte an der kasachisch-russischen Grenze erfuhr, stand für ihn fest, dass er sie besuchen würde.
Für die Serie 'Dust' dokumentierte er neben verwüsteten Landstrichen am Aralsee in faszinierenden Bildern die militärischen Sperrbezirke von Priosersk und Kurtschatow – Produkte des Kalten Krieges und bis in die jüngste Vergangenheit auf keiner Landkarte verzeichnet.
Unter größter Geheimhaltung wurden in Priosersk Langstreckenraketen getestet, im so genannten Polygon bei Kurtschatow explodierten bis 1989 Hunderte von Atombomben. Man zündete die atomaren Sprengkörper in unmittelbarer Nähe der ahnungslosen Bevölkerung und studierte heimlich die entsetzlichen Folgen der radioaktiven Strahlung.
Nadav KANDER beschreibt, wie ihn beim Shooting das Ticken des Geigerzählers an seinem Gürtel daran erinnerte, nicht dem ästhetischen Reiz malerisch bröckelnder Ruinen zu verfallen." (Verlagstext, © Hatje Cantz, 2014)
+ Rencontres d’Arles, Prix Pictet Retrospective 7.7.–21.9. 2014 -
+ Flowers gallery, London 9.9.–11.10.2014
+ Torch gallery, Amsterdam ab November 2014