Tim Andreae likened the Idaho National Lab to ancient Roman ruins. The ancients built enduring landmarks that lasted thousands of years without knowing about the legacy of their work. The radioactive waste will have a legacy of its own—one that is a source of artistic curiosity of Andreae, the curator of Holding What Can't Be Held, which will hold its opening event on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Ming Studios.
Andreae started Holding What Can't Be Held four years ago to put his concerns about INL into art. Participating artists this year include Irina Novarese, Eli Craven, Kristen Cooper, Uli Westphal, Jonathan Sadler and Luke Batten, Astri Snodgrass, Bryan Moore, Candace Rood, Alek De Dochas and Andreae himself.
In this year's exhibition, each artist takes on a different aspect of exploring INL. Last year Andreae drilled a hole in the Ming's studio floor, illustrating futility of burying nuclear waste; this year's piece will be a continuation of that.
Personal cameras are not allowed at the lab, and Craven grew up in Idaho Falls, and said the laboratory was mundane to him as a young person. He responded by finding historical photographs of INL, manipulating them to reflect the secrecy surrounding the facility. The photos, he said, "tease the viewer in a way," playing off the viewer's "desire to look at the whole picture."
Snodgrass' work uses a 19th-century cyanotype photographic process. It takes a dour view of "our relationship between the environment and our place in it," she said.
Much of the work in this exhibition leans on direct representation of the laboratory and media included in the exhibition range from paintings to photographs to give a visual sense of a place that Craven said is practically invisible to many Gem State residents.
"Some people in Idaho aren't aware of this place and that it exists," he said.