The Radiant, 2012

Presented at documenta in Kassel in 2012, The Radiant explores the impact of 11 March 2011, when the Tohoku earthquake generated a tsunami on the west coast of Japan, killing thousands of people and causing a partial collapse of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. With a soundtrack reminiscent of New Wave science fiction films and radio programmes of the 1960s and ’70s, The Radiant creates the climate of an invisible yet inordinately damaging threat.

Constructed from historical footage and recordings made in 2011, the film focuses on the historical promises associated with the advent of nuclear energy and the real danger of radioactive rain. The Otolith Group has incorporated images of the illuminated cities of Japan and the evacuated towns in the months immediately after the disaster. In a very animistic region where tribute is paid to local gods linked to elements like the sea, rain or soil, it has come to be believed that radiation brings a second level of invisibility to these deities, which cannot be captured by camera. Hence, there is a sequence in the film where a camera is disassembled. Meanwhile, the film incorporates a sound counter that detects those points of highest radiation. Even though a camera cannot ‘capture’ radiation, this counter can read the points where radiation is at its highest, such as in run-off or stagnant water. Since radiation – unlike an earthquake – has no visual presence, the sound descriptions are very useful. The Radiant incorporates sensorial approaches that are different from visual ones so that this invisible and dangerous threat can be accessed.

As the filmmakers themselves tell us: “The Radiant has to do with unspoken forms of power and identification with energy that atomic power gives. The entire project of nuclear power is a Promethean endeavour in which science and technology gain control over fundamental processes of chain reactions for supposedly the good of humanity. The last person to attribute this kind of Promethean dimension to nuclear power was the philosopher Günther Anders, Hannah Arendt’s first husband, who in the 1950s wrote The Antiquatedness of the Human Species. The Radiant are those people who feel themselves to be all-powerful because of their identification with the power of the nuclear. The Radiant is Japan itself, and within that, Tokyo, the City of Light that you see early on in the film in an overhead shot from the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower. Tokyo is something like the evil twin of Fukushima, way up there on the north-east – a provincial, local, old-fashioned town that Tokyo people are somewhat dismissive of.”

Technical details

Original title:
The Radiant
Registration number:
The Otolith Group
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Audiovisual recording
Single-channel video, color, sound, 64 min 14 s
Edition number:
Edició de 5 + P.A.
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Executive Producers
© The Otolith Group
It has accessibility resources:

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