When I close my eyes, I imagine a beautiful topography, not ever seen by any human, raising from the landscape. Unreal shapes, large but soft bodies of gamma radiations fading into the forest canopy. The shapes follow the features of the scenery result of radioactive decay in the bedrock.
The interest of Erich Berger in radiogenic phenomena, geological processes and the time scales from deep time to deep futures are behind his project called Spectral Landscapes. In 2019 he sent his proposal to the Accelerate Award Call, and was selected the Accelerate Finland artist-residency, hosted by Arts at CERN in Geneva.
The pandemic and the closure of the CERN research facilities and laboratories have caused the delay of the physical residency, but Erich has been able to start dialoging with CERN scientists remotely, attending a series of meetings, kindly organized by Monica Bello, the Head of Arts at CERN arts program.
The conversations online have been fruitful and orientated Berger´s on-going research, that started already in 2013 during a visit to Enontekiö in Sápmi, the Northern sub-arctic part of Finland.
In 2020 his fieldwork has continued in different sites such as Kovela in southern Finland and Palkiskuru in Sápmi, by scanning the radioactive mineralisations at these sites with a sophisticated DIY sensor device. The device allows to record the geo-located intensity of the gamma radiation of the site, on the ground by walking and in the air by being mounted on a drone. The collected data permit Berger to portray the gamma radiation fields as bodies which protrude from the radioactive base-rock as intricate but intrinsic features of the landscape. The first artistic results have been shown in the group exhibition ‘Splitting the Atom’ at CAC in Vilnius in 2020 and shortly in the group show Alter(action) that will take place at the Fundação Eugénio de Almeida in Evora this spring.
Scanning the sites involves “hours of walking and exploring: meditative and solitary days and enjoyable walks outdoors” as Berger says.
The on site residency at CERN laboratory is now planned for fall 2021.
Meanwhile the snow melts and the Finnish landscape topography is recognizable again, allowing Berger’s field work to continue .
Accelerate Finland is organized in partnership between Arts at CERN, in Geneva, and Capsula (art-science-nature) with the support of Saastamoinen Foundation and The Committee for Public Information (TJNK).