Approaching the Void – Chernobyl’ in Text and Image

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Andrea Zink


How, if at all, can the worst-case scenario nuclear accident be represented artistically? Chernobyl’ poses problems for writers, visual artists and film makers alike. For all the eventfulness of the first days and weeks following the accident, the area now seems devoid of life and activity. Nevertheless, the documentary prose writers Jurij Ščerbak and Svetlana Aleksievich, the photographer Robert Polidori and the documentary film maker Nikolaus Geyrhalter have managed to capture in text and image the events of 26 April 1986 and their consequences. Above all, they convey the sense of shock and helplessness that reigned following the accident. They achieve this by working with monologues, underscoring the isolation of those affected, subverting supposedly apt comparisons (for example with the First World War) and revealing the emptiness of existence through a carefully calculated silence.

Keywords: documentary (works of art), (inapt) comparisons, questions, perplexity, nothingness


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Special Issue: Memories, commemorations, and representations of Chernobyl