'Pedro Reyes: Zero Armi Nuclieri' at Museo Nivola, Orani, Sardinia
7 October 2022
The Museo Nivola presents 'Pedro Reyes: Zero Armi Nucleari' from 23 September 2022 to 22 February 2023, marking the first solo exhibition by the Mexican artist in an Italian institution.
The exhibition presents the developments of Reyes' Zero Nukes campaign, launched by the artist in collaboration with numerous institutions and figures from the world of art and science, to bring nuclear threat to the attention of the public and put pressure on governments to reduce the production and pursue the disarmament. Zero Nukes (2020) is an inflatable sculpture created as part of the Amnesia Atómica project, promoted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a non-profit association created more than 70 years ago, in the aftermath of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to spread awareness relating to technologies that are potentially lethal to humankind. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was followed by decades of inattention and “collective amnesia”.
The nuclear threat, however, has never really disappeared, and with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has returned to the center of global concern. Reyes’ project is linked, even iconographically, to the images and symbols used in the twentieth century by groups of activists and organizations advocating for disarmament, such as the Bulletin and the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Reyes focuses on the “Zero” as a graphic, visual and conceptual element common to all languages, used as a symbol of global unity for the only universally acceptable cause: avoiding the destruction of life on earth. He was also is inspired by the iconic Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, created in 1947 by landscape artist Martyl Langsdorf (1917 – 2013), wife of the physicist and founding member of Bulletin Alexander Langsdorf.
The clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to the catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies. In the exhibition, it is displayed in the form of a luminous sign and set at 100 seconds at midnight according to scientists’ calculations: the closest point to the apocalypse since its creation at the end of World War II.
The slogan “Zero Nukes”, translated into a myriad of languages, is presented in hand-painted protest signs, blurring the line between art and activism. The reference is to the global protest against the arms race that began in 1958, which during thirty years of mass resistance, from the 1960s to the 1980s, pushed governments to drastically reduce nuclear arsenals.
The exhibition includes protest garments produced by Mexican designer Carla Fernández which were used in performance by dance company Nohboards, an element that reaffirms the collaborative effort for global disarmament. The popular movement is also remembered through a photographic mural created in collaboration with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) using archival images relating to that global mobilization.
Recurring in the signs is the symbol of peace, used today in every pacifist context, but originally conceived as a symbol of opposition to nuclear weapons. It was in fact created by the designer and activist Gerald Holtom in 1958, reworking the semaphore language to indicate the letters N and D: Nuclear Disarmament. The symbol also appears on Stockpile, a sculpture made up of missile-shaped balloons, signed and numbered, which refer to the 12,705 nuclear warheads existing in the world. A number of limited edition balloons will be given away to the public in exchange for a social media post, inviting the public to symbolically dismantle global nuclear stockpiles, while fueling attention on nuclear threats.