Jomon pottery from 16,000 years ago
as a glass sculpture
waiting to be found 1,000 years later?
JOMON Vitrified is a multi-media installation about seeking meaning in our time through examination of the radioactive decay of uranium glass.
The project concept is a result of marrying my admiration to the Japanese ancient artifacts and my concerns with Fukushima nuclear disaster and Hanford nuclear waste management.
The two words “JOMON Vitrified” in the exhibit title set the time span that I suggest with the work, starting from 16,000 years ago until a million years into the future. Each material and element that I choose to use for the installation suggests a particular time period in our human history. The use of Kofun and Jomon pottery, for instance, specifies the ancient time period in Japanese history, while moss and uranium glass indicate their continuous life and decay into the future.
The installation will be situated in the center of the atrium space at the museum and measures approximately 4 feet high x 16 feet wide x 8 feet deep. It is composed of a keyhole-shaped ‘Kofun' mound made of straw wattles that will be entirely covered by moss. Approximately 20 uranium ‘Jomon' glass vessels will be placed throughout the mound, and they will be illuminated by ultraviolet light from below.
Kofun are megalithic ancient tombs in Japan that are constructed between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD. Many of the Kofun have distinctive keyhole shaped mounds, which are unique to ancient Japan. There are a total of 161,560 Kofun remaining throughout Japan.
The Jomon period in Prehistoric Japan starts from as early as 14,500 BC to about 300 BC. Jomon means “cord-marked” and the pottery style characteristic of the Jomon culture was decorated by impressing cords into the surface of the wet clay. This pottery dated to around 16,000 years ago is perhaps the oldest in the world.
To vitrify is to change or make into glass or a glossy substance by heat, fusion, and a cooling process. *Uranium glass is a post-product of the vitrification process that is used to create a stable compound suitable for the ultimate disposal of radioactive waste. It is the post-product of nuclear production from World War II through the Cold War. The vitrification process is currently being used at the Hanford Vitrification Plant in Washington, and it is believed to take over a few million years to naturalize vitrified radioactive waste. Although it is unimaginable to understand that length of time, my intention by using uranium glass is to emphasize the idea of an extremely long decay, as well as to symbolize the post-production waste that we have left for future generations.
National Radiation Laboratory of the Ministry of Health in New Zealand stating that it is perfectly safe to handle the uranium glass. This document is made available by Gaffer Coloured Glass Ltd. in New Zealand where I am purchasing the uranium glass material from to create the vessels.