Gessenwiese and Kanigsberg in the Erz Mountains form part of a landscape that has been in a process of constant change since 1946. The overburden from one of the world’s largest production sites of uranium, SDAG Wismut in the former GDR, created radioactive spoil heaps and lakes that are being rehabilitated through intensive work. Plants growing on Gessenwiese accumulate contaminants from the soil. Textiles are used to slowly dry out the lakes and bind the radioactive dust. Only to the trained eye are traces still visible of things that shaped the region for decades and that will live on for thousands of years in the groundwater, eroding soils, plants, and trees.
Kriemann carries out research through several photographic methodologies and creates installations on the theme of the afterlife of uranium mining activities in the landscape. Together with a research group from the Institute for Applied Geology at the University of Jena, she regularly conducts field research at the sites of Gessenwiese and Kanigsberg. She remains in contact with institutions, academics, artists, authors, and activists who do research and work on the mining of uraninite in the Erz Mountains. The different elements of their research make up the Library for Radioactive Afterlife, a continually growing “library” founded for the purpose of documenting developments whose effects on humans and nature span decades.
Susanne Kriemann lives and works in Berlin. She is professor for Artistic Photography at the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe. Kriemann investigates the medium of photography in the context of social history and archival practice. With an extended notion of the photographic document, she reflects on the world as an analogue “recording system” for human-caused processes. This has led to preoccupations with radioactivity and mining, archaeology and the notion of slow violence. To perceive polluted areas as vast photosensitive arrays is key to her understanding of landscape — as well as the extraction of pigments from the investigated matter that is documented and the use of these pigments to produce her pictures.