MOSCOW (AP) — A parcel-sized concrete cube meant to house decayed nuclear waste is one of the latest artworks at Moscow's Garage contemporary art museum.
This ambitious take on Russian artist Kazimir Malevich's original "Black Square" paintings is the brainchild of American artist Taryn Simon and the product of years of coordination with Russia's state-controlled Rosatom nuclear agency.
Like Malevich's work, Simon said hers is also "the great nothing designed out of quite something."
Rosatom's first reactions to the project were confusion and surprise— why would an artist want a box of nuclear waste— but after two years of negotiations via proxies, work began on Simon's black square.
As a foreign citizen, Simon hasn't been allowed onto Rosatom nuclear facilities and for both safety and security reasons has never physically touched or seen her work of art. Instead, she has communicated with a team of nuclear physicists across Russia.
The nuclear waste capsule was buried in a concrete-reinforced steel container at a Rosatom nuclear storage facility 70 miles (110 kilometers) outside of Moscow. Assistant curators at Garage filmed the process.
Garage has promised to add the degraded waste to the exhibit, buried along with a letter from Simon, in 999 years after the waste has downgraded.
"We're in it for the long haul," said Dasha Zhukova, Garage's founder, adding that Simon's collaboration created a nice cultural bridge — this is certainly the first time an American artist has collaborated with Rosatom, Zhukova added with a smile.
The nuclear "Black Square XVII" is the most recent iteration of Simon's own black square series, some of which are also on display at Garage. Though more mundane than nuclear waste, the other black squares are imposed with images that agitate from the political — Henry Kissinger in "Black Square V"— to the introspective — a parrot who pulls out his feathers from depression in "Black Square XI."