In 2010 this American artist took over Piccadilly’s Hauser and Wirth with her piece, Chernobyl 25 Years, filling the gallery with six projectors, six screens and countless layers of film.
The story behind the film is amazing: Thater and a few brave crew members travelled to the northern Ukrainian city of Prypiat, from which every day they took a tiny train to and from the village of Chernobyl, devastated 25 years ago by a nuclear explosion 100 times greater than that caused by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in WW2. This train never leaves Prypiat as it’s so heavily radiated, and the team only had a short few days to film the piece to avoid radiation poisoning – what people do for their art eh!
Sombre images are thrown across the gallery walls: An abandoned school auditorium, a calendar from 1986 still hanging in an empty flat, Prezwalski’s horses grazing – in fact this is the only part of the world where these wild horses still exist.
Thater herself has said that “nature does not choose to go back to Chernobyl because it wants to but because it is forced to. It has no other place to go”, even in the light of human tragedy, nature persists.
Tragic but softly seductive Diana Thater’s Chernobyl reminds us how fragile our ordered, manufactured world really is.