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By Zacha Rosen
August 06, 2012
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By Zacha Rosen
August 06, 2012
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At the heart of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art's new exhibition is a contradiction. The green glass of the sculptures in Ken + Julia Yonetani's What the Birds Knew is radioactive. Alongside the artist text, you are advised that the uranium glass in this show "is not sufficiently radioactive to pose a health hazard to those viewing the glass." But it's the thought of being so close to such a feared substance that is the thrill of this exhibition. What sets your hair on end, and makes you wonder if the exhibit is safe to visit. If the show is safe— which, no doubt, it is — then what happens to the adventure? And if it isn't, then why are you still standing there?

USA from Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nuclear Nations is a ghostly chandelier, reminiscent of the pale holographic ghosts of Disney World's haunted mansion, turning from ghostly bone to a more snot green when it's hit by light from the street as you open the door. It's one of a series of chandeliers made in the Crystal Palace series representing each of the nuclear nations, proportionate to size. The one at 4A, representing the States, is pretty big. The uranium glass beads are illuminated by UV bulbs, stealing the chandelier's thunder with a brilliant fuzzy glow whose border extends well beyond the bulbs' actual edges.

Upstairs, a giant green glowing ant is outlined with the beads. The wireframe textures of the ant hover in mid-air, outlining an underlying black chickenwire body. The ant is on a scale that makes you think of B grade film, and its rear gaster is raised dramatically as if to strike, with its cinematic lineage pushing you meditate on the perils of radioactivity. But, if the exhibition has a flaw, it's that its intended subjects (Australia's own uranium mining, and Fukushima) don't spring immediately to mind.

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