Renowned Melbourne photographer, p1xels, is bringing an experiential Chernobyl showcase to a secret Melbourne location August 9 – 16 2019.
The walk-through exhibition, ‘Alpha Beta Gamma’ will uncover the nuclear ruins, through raw photography, iconic dodgem cars, a bespoke bar and immersive sound show.
The nuclear explosion that was the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, during the height of the Cold War, saw more than 53,000 people evacuated from within a 30km radius of the plant. Today, this exclusion zone is still one of the most radioactively contaminated areas in the world, with scientists predicting it will remain uninhabitable for 20,000 years.
p1xels’ work focuses on how nature is working to reclaim the once barren town, which the UN Chernobyl Forum described has “paradoxically become a unique sanctuary for
p1xels kindly spoked to us in the lead up to her exhibition:
What was the motivation behind visiting Chernobyl?
Chernobyl is one of, if not the largest abandoned human areas in the world. I have been exploring buildings that have been left in ruin by way of damage or, like Pripyat, due to a man made disaster. My visit was locked in in February after almost a year’s worth of planning, to go with the right people who understood what I wanted to get out of the visit.
What was the main thing you wanted to capture and why?
I was interested in the city, Pripyat, not the nuclear power station. I wondered what happens to a place when man leaves it alone for thirty years, structurally and also how plant life changes the landscape. That was one of the reasons for visiting in the summer. Much of the time we were pushing through the green dense overgrown jungle and all of a sudden a building would appear. There was a village I visited where we walked for ages to find houses and then a gap and more houses, realising that the main road through the village was now a mass of vines and small trees that had broken through the road.
One of the people who connected me to my guides runs a not-for-profit organisation, ‘The Clean Futures Fund’ and they work with the animals who live within the zone. I wanted to meet all of the animals, the dogs, the cats, but most of all Simon the Fox. We looked everywhere for Simon, but due to the heat he was nowhere to be found. I’d love to go back to meet him one day but on the other hand I like that all animals are wild in the zone. They do what they want and are not influenced by humans.
What was the most surprising aspect of the trip to Chernobyl?
How big Pripyat was, but how well planned and accessible it was for the residents. Multiple schools, gymnasiums, medical facilities, cinemas, Pripyat had it all!
What was the most confronting element of the expedition?
Being locked inside the accommodation overnight, Its a safety precaution but its strange how the psychological effect of being locked in a cage and not able to go anywhere with only the dull ‘bip bip bip’ of the geiger counter around you.
How do you respond to comments recently in the media that people currently travelling to Chernobyl are cashing in on others misfortune, and using it to boost their social media status?
My position is that I love abandoned places, there is a stillness there for me and that stillness allows me to appreciate my life, the opportunities I have created, and that there are people who aren’t in a position to travel to some of the places I’ve visited or not here anymore who aren’t able to explore and see places like Pripyat.
I can assure you I was considerate in every way while visiting Pripyat and I felt first hand the sadness in a city with so much potential and futuristic forward thinking planning to have come to such an unfortunate end.
I have received positive feedback on my images and the visit so I guess that there will always be opposing opinions but Pripyat is such a beautiful place that I feel it needs to be shared. My trip was exciting and beautiful and one that I’ll never forget.
What do you hope the viewer takes away from the exhibition?
An appreciation of the images on show, the time money and effort I made to bring them into the public eye and the reality that the evacuation of 116000 people from their homes, not being able to return and leaving all their worldly possessions behind impacted so many and they are remembered through the generous guides who escort tourists through Pripyat and what the city looks like, not what has been seen on a TV show.
What’s next for p1xels?
I would love to be invited to photograph some of Melbourne’s abandoned spaces, I have a little list that I am hoping opportunities come up from through this exhibition. I’m rarely without my camera so I will continue to work with the incredibly talented artists and writers who invite me to work on their projects, travel wise I’ll be local to Australia. 2020 however has a number of international opportunities on the cards!
Alpha Beta Gamma is a free event and will open to the public 6pm Friday August 9 until
Friday August 16. The location will be revealed 24 hours prior to the exhibition over at @p1xels