McMillan’s Chernobyl: An Intimation of the Way the World Would End
January 11 - March 31, 2019
Opening Reception: Friday, January 11 6-8 pm
Curated by: Claude Baillargeon
McMillan’s Chernobyl features fifty-nine photographs drawn from twenty-five years of fieldwork within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The work lays bare nature’s remarkable capacity to endure and recover from a radiological disaster as pernicious as Chernobyl.
In the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, a thirty-kilometer Exclusion Zone surrounding the irretrievably damaged power plant was created to curtail exposure to radiation. In addition to numerous rural communities that were buried for eternity, the “atom city” of Prypiat, built in 1970 to accommodate some 50,000 residents, including the plant’s workers and their families, was permanently evacuated.
By 1994, the Scottish-born Canadian photographer David McMillan began to explore the Zone in search of images evoking the essence of the tragedy. Inspired by his teenage memories of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (1957), a disturbing vision of the world post-nuclear war, McMillan found in Prypiat the embodiment of a modern city, full of amenities and still standing, but utterly devoid of human life. In fall 2018, McMillan made his twenty-second journey to the area to bear witness to the inexorable forces of nature reclaiming the abandoned community.
To mark this singular achievement, the Oakland University Art Gallery presents the exhibition McMillan’s Chernobyl: An Intimation of the Way the World Would End (January 11–March 31, 2019). This is the first full-fledged retrospective of this major body of work, now twenty-five years in the making. This exhibition coincides with the publication of McMillan’s monograph Growth and Decay: Prypiat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Steidl, 2018), which features some two hundred photographs, with an essay by Claude Baillargeon, the exhibition curator and a professor of art history at Oakland University.
To frame the exhibition and its accompanying publication within the larger context of what remains the most catastrophic nuclear accident in human history, an array of public programming and events has been developed to foster reflection and provide perspective. In addition to the customary artist’s and curator’s talks, this program of related events includes an eight-part film series, a community forum organized in partnership with the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum of Detroit, and an interdisciplinary symposium sponsored by the Division of Academic Affairs, which features a keynote address by Alan Wiseman, author of The World Without Us (2007), doubling as the 2019 Varner Vitality Lecture. See attached brochure for further details regarding public programming and events. An e-version is also available at https://issuu.com/ouag/docs/mcmillan. McMillan’s Chernobyl is curated by Claude Baillargeon, Professor of Art History, Oakland University
An artist’s talk by David McMillan, to take place in Wilson Hall Room 124 (one floor below the Oakland University Art Gallery) is scheduled for 5:00 pm on January 11. The exhibition opening will follow, 6:00–8:00 pm.