Atif Akin: Tepoto Sud

Nuclear stories are mythical and nuclear science is mystical. The story of 193 nuclear bombs dropped on two Polynesian atolls in the span of 30 years is no exception. This is a human created myth, a myth of the modern world. I do not argue that this did not happen, I do not argue that there was no science to it. I argue that these nuclear bombings constitute a story that feeds into a certain, hegemonic worldview. In his 1955 essay, “The Structural Study of Myth,” Claude Levi-Strauss states, “Mythology confronts the student with a situation which at first sight could be looked upon as contradictory. On the one hand, it would seem that in the course of a myth anything is likely to happen. This is no logic, no continuity. Any characteristic can be attributed to any subject; every conceivable relation can be met. With myth, everything becomes possible. But on the other hand, this apparent arbitrariness is belied by the astounding similarity between myths collected in widely different regions.” Mythology helps explain supernatural events that have significance in a particular community.

Myths build on events. They formulate answers to great unknowns. The modern world would, perhaps, call these scientific unknowns. The modern world perceives a hard distinction between the supernatural and reality. In fact, in the case of Moruroa and Fangataufa, the two atolls that were bombed for 30 years, humanity mimicked nature, inadvertently breaking through this distinction. The bomb became a human-made volcanic eruption, creating a new, man made, spectacle--one as spectacular and captivating as its natural counterpart. The modern world built its own scientific myth within this unique landscape. Polynesian mythology connects strongly to nature and the ocean environment. It is sometimes believed that nature and oceans hold supernatural powers.

Working with the French government in June 1987, Jacques Cousteau and his team explored damage to the Moruroa atoll. Cousteau, however, had limited time, resources, and access. In the video footage, Cousteau is underwater, showing a large crack in the seabed, which was created by the bombings. Cousteau’s hand moves in a quasi-seductive way over the seabed. It is a performance of the desire of anthropocenic intervention.



Mururoa, une fissure sur le récif - needs new caption from Atif

The accompanying images and animation are part of a collective, ongoing art and research project by TBA21. They represent a new mythology, which sits atop existing natural and nuclear myths.

The first part of the project is a geological survey of Tepoto Sud, a small atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Embedded within this atoll is a model of a Klein Bottle, a non-orientable surface. The Klein Bottle was first imagined by the German mathematician, Felix Klein, in 1882. It is a two-dimensional manifold against which a system for determining a normal vector cannot be consistently defined. Here, it acts as the intangible internal structure of an atoll. A fictitious concept, here it offers an explanation for an unknown, it represents a new formation myth.

Atif Akin, Klein Bottle Atoll Tepoto Sud overview (2016)

The second part of the project involves research on corals, oceanographic geology, celestial sphere, and the way life defines space within the atolls. Radiation and genetic mutations have invaded and transformed this space in ways seen and unseen. A new mythology is in order.

Atif Akin, Moruroa One of the Explosions (2016)
Atif Akin, Work in Progress (2016)
Atif Akin, Work in Progress (2016)
Atif Akin, Work in Progress (2016)
Atif Akin, Work in Progress (2016)