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Culture & Communication

Nadav Kander, Dust at Flowers gallery, London September 10-October 11, 2014

The Aral Sea I (Officers Housing), Kazakhstan 2011

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust”
T.S. Eliot

Rooted in an interest in the ‘aesthetics of destruction,’ Nadav Kander’s most recent project Dust explores the vestiges of the Cold War through the radioactive ruins of secret cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia.

Kurchatov and Priozersk, formally known as ‘Moscow 10’, were closed cities, restricted military zones, concealed and not shown on maps until they were ‘discovered’ by Google Earth. Enlisted to the pursuits of science and war, the sites were utilized for the covert testing of long distance and atomic weapons. Falsely claimed as uninhabited, the cities, along with nearby testing site ‘The Polygon’ and the Aral Sea set the stage for one of the most cynical experiments ever undertaken. Scientists watched and silently documented the horrifying effects of radiation and pollution on the local population and livestock.

Levelled to preserve their military secrets, the areas now consist predominantly of the ruinous architecture and desolate landscapes featured in Kander’s fascinating and hauntingly beautiful photographs. The result of the Cold War and of the relentless quest for nuclear armaments, the ruins stand as accidental monuments to the melancholic, dark and destructive side of human nature.

Fascinated by the area’s past and driven by discovery, Kander’s photographs portray stark fact and bleak setting with a characteristic poeticism. Secrets seem to seep from the silence of the crumbling monuments, bowing under heavy grey skies. Describing what he saw as ‘empty landscapes of invisible dangers’ Kander’s images evoke his sense of awe and fear as he responded to these places and to the weight of their history.

‘These images do not make beautiful what is not, they ask of us that we repurpose ourselves to accept a new order of both the beautiful and the real’ Will Self

Nadav Kander (b. 1961, Israel) is best known for Yangtze – The Long River, for which he earned the prestigious Prix Pictet award in 2009. Other series include Obama’s People, an acclaimed 52 portrait series commissioned by New York Times Magazine, and his recent portraits for the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Road to 2012. Kander’s work is included in several public collections including National Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Frank Suss Collection, and he has exhibited worldwide at venues such as the Palais de Tokyo, the Herzilya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel and the Musée De L’Elysee, Lausanne. He was named International Photographer of the Year at the 7th Annual Lucie Awards in 2009 and has received awards from the Art Director’s Club and IPA in the USA, the D&AD and the John Kobal Foundation in the UK and Epica in Europe.

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Caption: The Aral Sea I (Officers Housing), Kazakhstan 2011 © Nadav Kander, courtesy of Flowers Gallery
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