Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Reading Environments | Deluge: Present Absences

Reading group

10.00am 31 May 2024

Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery

For the final session we will read Listening to Radioactive Rubble: Vocal Decay, Gender, and Nuclear Ruination in the Marshall Islands by Jessica Schwartz alongside poems by the Marshallese poet Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner. These pieces will be read alongside Raúl Ortega Ayala’s The Zone.

as if God Himself
those powdered flakes
to drift
onto our skin hair eyes
to seep into our bones
We mistook radioactive fallout
for snow
God will thank you they told us

- From 'History Project' by Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, 2017, Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press.
History Project: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1ht4v9d.10?seq=2
Just a Rock: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1ht4v9d.23
Two Degrees: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1ht4v9d.29

“The fictionalized urban ruins and the UNESCO heritage ruins do cultural work as US imperial projections. They conjure an atomic nostalgia that procures an inattention for the present where the United States becomes both victor and victim. The nuclear relationship between ‘man’ and ‘environment’ normalizes notions of mastery by ‘man’ (human) over an ‘environment’ (as landscape). Importantly, the Marshall Islands and its Indigenous communities are subsumed into the role of atomic theatre.” - Jessica Schwartz. 2022. Listening to Radioactive Rubble: Vocal Decay, Gender, and Nuclear Ruination in the Marshall Islands. Twentieth-Century Music. 19(2): (pp. 200-208).
Link: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/twentieth-century-music/article/listening-to-radioactive-rubble-vocal-decay-gender-and-nuclear-ruination-in-the-marshall-islands/5BB435C6EDD272806C620F8050D9E1CA

Reading Environments is a reading group open to all, for reading, listening and thinking together. Hosted by Eli Elinoff (Anthropology), Su Ballard (Art History), Bonnie Etherington, and Adam Grener (English Literatures and Creative Communication), Reading Environments brings together academics, students and interested members of the public to delve into and discuss current work in the Environmental Humanities that helps us navigate the changing environmental contexts of the planet.

On the occasion of Infrastructure: power, politics and imagination, the Reading Environments series continues under the theme Deluge. These meetings run across three Friday morning sessions pairing art works from the exhibition with selected readings. Reading Environments | Deluge engages with various onslaughts—material, conceptual, temporal, technical, political--associated with the making of infrastructural worlds. Each session develops a dialogue with a specific work from Infrastructure, pairing a conceptual reading with a piece of fiction or poetry.

Raúl Ortega Ayala in collaboration with Roberto Rubalcava and Peter Miles, 'Field note 10-05-16—4485 (Interior, Pripyat, Chernobyl)', from the series 'The Zone', 2022, photographic print adhered to wall, courtesy the artist. Installation view Raúl Ortega Ayala 'The Zone' in 'Infrastructure: power, politics and imagination', Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, 2024. Photo: Ted Whitaker.