Tahlia Palmer – Nuclear Waste Dump

In 1954, a formal request was placed by the High Commissioner Of The United Kingdom to Australia, requesting the use of a proving ground for a series of nuclear tests. These tests, carried out two years later at Maralinga, would inflict irreparable harm to generations of the Maralinga Tjarutja people and became emblematic of an uneasy relationship between indigenous communities and the atomic aspirations of subsequent governments, both within and outside of Australia.

With Nuclear Waste Dump, Tahlia Palmer traces these lines of atomic incursion to the present moment. Specifically she examines the current tensions around proposed nuclear waste storage near so-called Kimba, South Australia, the Barngarla community bearing the brunt of battle against the South Australian government. Their fight against the waste facility is ongoing and has seen significant failings of consultation from various government representatives, drawing commentary from the Joint Committee on Human Rights who raised questions about the governmental authorities who are at risk of breaching the Barngarla people’s rights to culture and self-determination.

In response to this situation, and the histories that run in parallel with it, including her own ancestral complicity – her stolen generations grandfather and great uncle working as part of Uranium mining projects in the Northern Territory during the 1950s – Palmer has forged images utilising a series of AI tools that call upon multiple data sets localised around key phrases including ‘nuclear poisoning’ and ‘Kimba, South Australia’. These uneasy images, saturated and almost hallucinatory, depict imagined futures and deep-time memories. They are hazy, sun bleached and profound, somehow capturing both a sense of what has been, and potentially what might come. Their hyper-realised colours seem to project a sense of excess, a reference to the ruptures that nuclear technologies have produced across the 20th and 21st centuries.