Once Upon a Time in Chernobyl at CCCB

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Once Upon a Time in Chernobyl at CCCB
Nikola´ Khrienko, Aquest home tambÚ consumeix bolets contaminats.

BARCELONA, SPAIN.- The Centre de Cultura ContemporÓnia de Barcelona and Bancaja present the exhibition “ONCE UPON A TIME CHERNOBYL”, curated by the French historian and journalist of Russian origin Galia Ackerman. With the support of the Department of Culture of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Autonomous Catalan Government), the exhibition will run in Gallery 2 of the CCCB through 8 October 2006.

The greatest industrial catastrophe of the history of humankind, the Chernobyl disaster, has never been the subject of an exhibition. Exhibitions have been organized of the work of a specific photographer or of children’s drawings, mostly in association with NGO fundraising, but no attempt has been made to show this huge event of contemporary history.

Faithful to its commitment to the events that shape modern times, the Centre de Cultura ContemporÓnia de Barcelona came up with the idea of creating this world first on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

The exhibition tries to answer the following questions:

Why did Soviet leaders decide to promote nuclear energy when the USSR had vast reserves of petrol and natural gas? What exactly happened at the power station on the fateful night of 26 April 1986? What action was taken to manage the “liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident” (official term)? What happened during the “battle of Chernobyl”, in which approximately one million persons took part? And what happened to the heroes who saved Europe? How did the reality of Chernobyl become a fearsome test for the policy of glasnost (opening up) launched by Mikhail Gorbachov? Why was it necessary to evacuate some 600 towns and villages, and permanently relocate 350,000 persons? What happened to the animals and plants in the evacuated areas, since abandoned by humankind? How do people live in the territories of “Chernobyl Land”, with its lasting contamination of a total surface area of 160,000 km▓? What are the health problems and the long-term prospects for the mostly rural populations of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia? How is a team of researchers devoted to “extreme ethnography” salvaging a “Ukrainian Atlantis”, the culture of the former region of Polesia, which extends between Ukraine and Belarus?

The challenge facing this exhibition is to answer these questions. Its creation has taken years of patient on-site work, mainly in Ukraine, but also in Belarus and Russia. The exhibition curator, Galia Ackerman, a French historian and journalist of Russian origin, went there to find photographs bearing witness to the catastrophe, archive footage from state television channels, objects such as the medals, suits and honorary diplomas of liquidators, press cuttings and publications of the time, maps, children’s drawings and many other testimonies of recent history that have not yet been collected in museums.

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