Category: arts, design, video

Plan C: A Radioactive Fairground Attraction in Manchester

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 15:41

posted by Marcia Caines

Whitworth Park Manchester, spring 2010 – university students, museum-goers, local low-income residents, junkies, pushers and/or the director of some museum in Liverpool all had the unique opportunity to take a ride on a rather dated and sinister-looking radioactive fairground attraction which appeared in the park overnight: ‘The Liquidator’.

images Tod Seelie

Unsurprisingly, The Liquidator is the work of artists – who thankfully continue to use cities as their playgrounds for creative experimentation, adding a bit of spice to urban life and soliciting a variety of reactions from everyday people. Part of a clandestine art project called Plan C, the piece was assembled in Whitworth Park for the second edition of the Abandon Normal Devices Festival (ANDfestival), a festival of New Cinema and Digital Culture that poses the question: What are our normal devices and how might we abandon them?

screenshots from Stalker directed by Tarkovsky

The story begins with Tarkovsky’s 1979 movie Stalker, a movie which, to some extent, foretold the explosion of the Chernobyl Power plant in 1986 and which inspired six uncompromising artists: Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG, Todd Chandler, Ryan Doyle, Jeff Stark, Tod Seelie and Steve Valdez, to venture into ‘The Zone’ 24 years after reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl Power melted down in the city of Pripyat in Ukraine.

images Tod Seelie
Plan C originated after Mattes and Doyle met with the artist James Acord, the only person to carry a license to work with radioactive materials. It is Acord’s belief that artists should use the materials of their age, while Mattes recounts: “I was ten when Chernobyl’s radioactive cloud flew over my head, and into my thyroid”.

images Tod Seelie

The Plan C team comprises: a machine artist (Ryan Doyle), conspirators (Eva and Franco Mattes), an organizer (Jeff Stark), a director (Todd Chandler), a photographer (Tod Seelie) and a fabricator (Steve Valdez), who unbeknownst to each other took off from different countries to meet up in the abandoned city of Pripyat – home to the Chernobyl power plant – posting but a few clues along the way on the project’s dedicated website, www.plan.c

images Tod Seelie

Once they obtained permission from the Administration of the Alienation Zone in Ukraine the crew entered the zone, where they found what they were looking for: the red ride. Mattes explains: “We saw the images of the abandoned amusement park online and we were blown away. It was built for May Day 1986 as a gift to the power plant workers but it was never inaugurated, since the reactor exploded five days before that. The ride was used just once, on the day of the evacuation, to distract residents from what was happening. They had no idea about the radiation, they were just having fun on the red ride”.

images Tod Seelie

The artists scavenged materials from the red ride and built a Soviet-style carnival ride with nearby villagers, which in early October appeared ‘as if by magic’, fully functional in Manchester. They chose Manchester because it is close to Europe’s first and biggest nuclear power plant and because of its key role in the dawn of the industrial era.

images Tod Seelie

I asked Franco Mattes some questions about the installation:

MC: How radioactive was the ride on ‘The Liquidator’?
FM: People were not directly touching or sitting on anything too hot for long. We wanted to hack people’s minds, not their bodies. That said, none of us has scientific training, we checked up on the Internet…

MC: Did you tell people it was radioactive before they had a ride?
FM: Yes, we told everybody.

MC: How did people react to ‘The Liquidator’?
FM: Most people didn’t care at all, they just wanted to take a ride and be photographed on it. A minority was shocked and totally against it, and didn’t even want to get close to us. The reason why we like doing art out there is to get spontaneous reactions.

image Tod Seelie

The aim of Plan C was purely experimental. The artists’ mission with the project was not to launch a controversial message about nuclear energy or to sensitise people to any given cause, but to search for the unexpected in the cracks of society. But, as mankind strives to change the future to suit his economical and societal needs, and builds cities and infrastructures at an unprecedented rate, maybe it is worth pausing to reflect on the price of creating things that can not be undone? In 1970 the ambitious plan for the city of Pripyat was presented to the world as the ‘city of the future’; 24 years later a token from this ghost town reappears in the form of a radioactive fair ride salvaged from its ruins and pieced together in a public park in Manchester.

Video on Vimeo:
Plan C: Manchester from Eva and Franco Mattes aka 01.ORG on Vimeo.

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4 Responses to “Plan C: A Radioactive Fairground Attraction in Manchester”

  1. Marcia Caines says:

    November 30th, 2010 at %I:%M %p

    New blog post | Plan C: A Radioactive Fairground Attraction in Manchester

  2. Marcia Caines says:

    November 30th, 2010 at %I:%M %p

    New blog post | Plan C: A Radioactive Fairground Attraction in Manchester

  3. zibi creative labs says:

    November 30th, 2010 at %I:%M %p

    From our Cluster friends | Plan C: A Radioactive Fairground Attraction in Manchester

  4. Mark Sumpter says:

    November 30th, 2010 at %I:%M %p

    Plan C: A Radioactive Fairground Attraction in Manchester …: Plan C: A Radioactive Fairground Attraction in Ma…

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