Atomic Modern

Gair Dunlop (Artist)

Research output: Other contribution


‘Atomic Modern’ is a project tracing the rise and fall of the UK nuclear fission research programme. Over a three-year period, Gair Dunlop gained unique access to a range of research sites, archives and restricted facilities. Two key concepts informed the underpinning research, ‘military pastoral complex’, (Matthew Flintham) and ‘imaginary futures’ (Richard Barbrook), informing Dunlop’s research to enact the ‘nuclear imaginary’ through its manifestations in fiction, documentary and education film of the time, and exploring how each directly inflected the other. Archive film and documents, understood as key records of 20th Century Modernism, are juxtaposed and re-contextualised in relation to the current twilight state of sites and fissions’ ambitions.

A key outcome of the research is Yellowcake: Atomic Modern, a three-screen film work conceived and directed by Dunlop. The film tracks the process of refinement, production and use of Yellowcake – uranium ore – on its journey from the ground into brief intense alchemical transformation and back into the ground as highly concentrated toxin. The work reflects and leads a shift in emphasis in nuclear culture’s preoccupation with technologised site to process of extraction, exhaustion and reburial.

The film is supported by an exhibition of photographs, ‘Fission and recent futures’ (St Andrews Photography Festival, 4 - 27 October 2017) and a journal paper ‘Thresholds’ (Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 2015), which explains Dunlop’s methodologies in this rich visual territory of futures past.

Yellowcake: Atomic Modern, has been exhibited at Timespan, Helmsdale, as part of their ‘Navigating Deep Time’ season, and was selected for the Cambridge Film Festival, Solid State Cinema Glasgow, the Royal Scottish Academy, and Rome Media Art Festival (all 2017). Funded, directly to researcher, by Creative Scotland (£25,000) and by the Royal Scottish Academy’s Morton Award (£5,000).
Original languageEnglish
TypeMulti Component Output
PublisherUniversity of Dundee
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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