This is the introduction of the paper I presented at the Stalking the Chernobyl Zone workshop at SFU in mid-April:
“Where to look for signs of life in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone?
Speaking to this landscape contaminated by radioactive fallout, most stories, including that in the global media, dark tourism sites, even the documentaries tend to narrate its life in terms of decay: last remaining residents, last standing buildings, decaying power plant inside the sarcophagus … all within the firm grasp of radioactive materials slowly “half-lifeing”. On the other hand, similar narratives that portray decay mention its double when unharvested fish becomes the source of rumor about wildlife returning back to the zone and the unexpectedly flourishing plant life eats up the asphalt, blankets the concrete and propagates unforeseen offsprings. A decay in grey meets revitalization in green. I would like to explore whether or not there is any possibility to imagine a different color? A different eye maybe which would locate signs of life in neither decay nor re-vitalization, noticing that both fall within the grasp of what Michael Marder calls, atomic sovereignty, the wordless language of atom that, for him, had long ago declared the state of exception that turned Chernobyl into an zone of exclusion, or to translate it properly from Ukrainian, a zone of alienation.
So let me rephrase my question: where, in the alienation zone, are we to look for signs of life such that we escape from a sovereignty that silently and insidiously gravitates life to its orbit by either letting it lush in green or slowly putrefy in grey? And how?”