Merilyn Fairskye – 2020 (1)

Merilyn Fairskye’s new work 2020 (1) continues her interest in the impact of nuclear energy on humans and the environment, into the future. Her last exhibition (Precarious, Stills Gallery Aug-Sept 2011) investigated and questioned official narratives about nuclear power and the safe containment of nuclear waste. The subject was the aftermath of the explosion at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. It was explored through a photographic series Plant Life and a film Precarious (66 mins), and the earlier video installation, Fieldwork II. 2020 (1) also employs photographic tableaux and video (installation). This exhibition is part of a larger project that will also include an artist book.

The project has been conceived at a time when there is renewed public discussion about Australia going nuclear. The work aims to create a visual encounter with the realities of nuclear landscapes and post nuclear communities, and to humanize the complex and disturbing issues that are controlled and contained by corporate and state narratives.

The images draw from the landscapes, facilities and remains of actual decommissioned facilities in two locations, UK and Kazakhstan (in Central Asia). The large-scale photographic panoramas suggest fictional worlds drawn from nuclear locations. They create open-ended narratives between people, landscape and mega-technologies. The videos depict apparently mundane nuclear landscapes, which yield atmospheric power.

Fairskye is highly skilled at recreating an unsettling reality, one that perhaps we would rather not look at or think about, in a way that quickly becomes engrossing and informative. She combines the skill of a journalist with that of the artist and turns the viewer into a politicized philosopher. She convinces us of the unavoidable importance of approaching the world we inhabit with much more awareness and a sense of enquiry. The emotional punch of the work is the underlying pathos of the brevity of human life set against the longevity of radiation.

Merilyn Fairskye has exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas. Her film Precarious has been well received internationally. Her artwork encompasses a broad range of media from public artworks to video installations, films and photo-based works. Her work is widely held in public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Getty Collection (LA) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (Franklin Furnace Archive).