This spring, the Center For Book Arts Featured Artist is Elena Costelian. Her installation, Chernobyl on Tour, includes a scroll composed of US and USSR archival maps from before the Chernobyl catastrophe.
The towns and cities that exist on these maps are gone from their contemporary counterparts, and it is thought that it will be 20,000 years until radiation levels are safe enough for something to “exist” on the map there again.
Upon the archival pre-catastrophe maps, she creates a space for viewers to imagine not only what was, but also what could have been or still is- abandoned, buried- or what might be. She re- presents the “zone of contamination,” from a homogenous black hole of nuclear fallout to a place on earth.
Costelian asks of the viewer, “How can we define the contours of this zone? In what way does the phenomenon of radioactivity define the idea of the Zone’s border? Is Chernobyl a place without an end?” Indeed, with radiation reaching across the continent, and through generations of plants and animals, where does Chernobyl end?
In her research for the project, Costelian found the borders of the disaster encompassing more and more historical territory as she learned that Chernobyl was a Jewish settlement whose inhabitants and city were almost completely annihilated by the Nazi’s in World War II. Reaching way back, to the very naming of the place, “Chernobyl,” meaning dark, nourishing, fertile soil, Costelian has grappled with a past idea or hope for the future that has been taken off the map.
Chernobyl on Tour is epic in scope and not to be missed. Join us tonight! April 19th! at the Center for Book Arts for the opening reception. Her work, and all of the spring exhibitions, are on view through June 29th.
-Francesca Austin- Ochoa