Hong Kong new media collective XCEED recently brought their RadianceScape Live! project to Poland’s PatchLab Festival. RadianceScape Live! is an audiovisual performance that builds on XCEED’s original RadianceScape installation piece. Conceptualized by XCEED founder Zhang Hanqian (a.k.a. h0nh1m), the project is a live audiovisual display of radiation levels from major cities across the world, which uses data sourced from Safecast.org, a website that aggregates global radioactivity data. By comparing the radiation levels of major cities, such as New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Berlin, and Paris, to the nuclear disaster zones of Chernobyl and Fukushima, the project hopes to bring greater awareness to the issue of global radiation pollution.
RadianceScape started as a digital visualization of radiation levels and city contours. According to Zhang, the project was initially inspired by the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. In 2014, Zhang spent half a year doing an artist residency in Japan, and during that time, he spoke with local residents to understand their reactions to the disaster and subsequent radiation pollution. After the 2011 earthquake, dire amounts of nuclear runoff from Fukushima flooded into the Pacific Ocean, contaminating ocean life and creating an environmental crisis. To this day, Japan has been unable to come up with an effective cleanup resolution. During the bid for the upcoming Olympic Games, the Japanese government’s official stance was that they had resolved the crisis. In an effort to appease local residents, the government implemented tests and measurement centers across Fukushima to collect data on radiation levels. However, data from the official measurements would differ from data collected by international media and environmental agencies, causing widespread allegations of a government coverup.
After returning to Hong Kong, Zhang began work on RadianceScape project. The Safecast system, which was created by a group of volunteers after the Fukushima crisis, would provide the data that would be used for the project. Retranslating the data to laser and sounds, Zhang and his team created a new and stimulating way to present information that would bring attention to the current state of radiation pollution across the world. The RadianceScape installation featured red and green laser lights scanning across visualizations of Chernobyl and Fukushima, two of the world’s most infamous nuclear disaster zones. The visuals would be accompanied by sound design that included tonal drone ambiance and noises that correspond to the different levels of radioactivity.
“The ‘-scape’ in RadianceScape refers to landscapes. To visualize radiation in these cities, we first used electronic landscapes to display the structures of the cities. The higher the radiation levels became, the harder it would be to see the underlying structures of the cities,” Zhang explains. Ultimately, he hopes this project can raise awareness and allow people to better understand the issue of radiation pollution. “The issues with nuclear energy have always existed. We should begin a discussion on whether or not this source of energy is even necessary. We have a lot of options aside from nuclear energy.”
See below for a snippet of their live performance.
“《辐射界》的英文名字是 Radiance Scape，scape即是代表landscape。 我们希望以辐射勾勒城市景貌，所以背景以电子地图中的立体街景方式呈现。作品内辐射率愈高，就愈难看见城市原来的面貌 。” 视觉呈现的背后，张瀚谦希望启发观众更深入关注核污染问题，“核能问题一直衍生。我们需讨论核能是否必要之需？人类仍有很多选择，不一定需要核能源。”