1 / 3       On a one-day visit to the Exclusion Zone, tourists have a few minutes for snapshots in front of the sarcophagus encasing Reactor 4. «This is as close as you can get, hurry up,» says the tour guide who asks visitors to stay on the paved paths «as radiation is substantially higher on the grass».
Pripyat, Ukraine, 2013.
© Gerd Ludwig/National Geographic Creative/National Geographic Magazine.

2 / 3       In the Exclusion Zone, a park commemorating the homes abandoned was opened in 2011. The signs are the names of all the villages evacuated.
Chernobyl, September 21, 2013.
© Gerd Ludwig/National Geographic Creative/National Geographic Magazine.

3 / 3       During the visit to the exhibition Nuclear Tourism by Gerd Ludvig. © Stefania Biamonti÷FPmag.

Nuclear Tourists

In Arles I was struck by the exhibition Tourisme de la désolation by Ambroise Tézenas, where he analyses the debatable phenomenon of mass visit in places hit by catastrophes of different nature. It is hard not to compare this exhibition to Gerd Ludwig's work on nuclear tourism on display in Perpignagn. This work covers the twenty years after Chernobyl’s catastrophe with pictures showing a sinister form of leisure around the unfortunate Ukrainian city, which creates phenomenon that are hard to understand to a clear mind.
After the opening in 2011, by means of the Ukrainian government, the protected zone around the place of the nuclear incident has become a touristic attraction. Here even photography workshops are organised. The surreal part of the matter is that the permission to access the area has been granted exactly at the same time of the terrible news of another nuclear catastrophe, which was happening in Fukushima. As if the public turmoil around this terrible incidence could have accelerated the radioactive decay.
Among all the considerations, if it is true that it is even possible to take pictures of the sarcophagus that covers the nuclear reactor, tourists seem most attracted by the small town of Pripyate, and in particular, by its recreation ground, that should have been inaugurated in May 1986. It looks like the suspended atmosphere of the suddenly abandoned town, after the incident at the nuclear plant, morbidly attracts the nuclear tourist, deluded to see a world that has crystallised at 1:23 of the 26th of April 1986, when the nuclear reactor number four exploded. As a matter of facts, we are talking about truths that can be assimilated in the same way of a walk through Disneyworld, where the mind is not particularly nourished but where the risks of a nuclear explosion are definitely less likely. In fact, the looters have taken with them every valuable thing before the territories were reopened. You can also find some suspicious things, such as schoolbooks ‘accidentally’ open on the pages about Marx or Lenin, or the chairs left in front of a piano in school, too small to think a kid could have played the piano sitting on them. And what to say about the casual installations where a doll is sitting close to a gas mask? Evidently, this is not so important for who starts such a journey. After all, the speculative imagination of some characters is very well summarised by brilliant performances, such as being photographed on a carpet made of gas masks wearing a gas mask rigorously brought from home. [ S. I. ]

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NUCLEAR TOURISM
by Gerd Ludwig
Couvent des Minimes | until September, 13rd 2015
admission fee: free

published on 2015-09-14 in NEWS / EXHIBITIONS

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