Erich Berger (AT/FI) is an artist, curator and cultural worker based in Helsinki/Finland. He directs the Finnish Society of Bioart creating interdisciplinary encounters between art and science. His artistic interests lie in processes and feedback structures, which he investigates through installations, situations, performances and interfaces. Throughout his artistic practice he has explored the materiality of information and information and technology as artistic material. His current interest in issues of deep time and hybrid ecology led him to work with geological processes, radiogenic phenomena and their socio-political implications in the here and now. His latest work, the INHERITANCE project (with Mari Keto), asks: What do we leave behind, what will the future inherit from us?
Nobody remembers why it was radioactive in the first place
They would probably explain that:“… in its core it is a set of jewellery consisting of a golden necklace, a brooch and earrings all fitted with stones, some cut and some raw. Basically a classic heirloom / family jewellery set. The jewellery is boxed in a solid and durable container made out of concrete. This container is not only for storage and safekeeping of the jewellery itself but foremost to protect and shield its owners from the radioactivity of the jewellery. Nobody in our family remembers why the jewellery was radioactive in the first place – it just is. We only know that the jewellery is not safe to wear while still radioactive. Though we feel it is a burden to keep and care for it, we also keenly wait for the moment when the jewellery will full-fill its promise: to restore identity and the potential of wealth. Then it finally can be put to use again.”
The family would further point out:“… on top of the container is a copper plate with inscriptions, which instruct us that whenever we hand the heirloom to our next generation, we have to perform the ritual of measurement. For this we find additional artefacts stored in the container. The different layers of the container house an apparatus called electroscope with a number of sealed spare gold-leaves to be mounted in the electroscope; an electrostatic charger consisting of a piece of fur and plastic rod to power it up; as well as a simple machine to measure how long it takes for the charged gold-leaf in the electroscope to move from the charged horizontal position to the discharged vertical position. Everything we need is in the container, durable and long lasting if we take good care of it.”
Lastly they would tell that: “… on the copperplate is written that when the time measured with and without jewellery is about equal, then finally we are able to put the jewellery in use. Otherwise we have to pack everything into the container again and store it until the next generation will make a new attempt. The copper plate also asks us to update the language of the instructions in case they become difficult to understand, and when we turn the plate around, we can see inscriptions and corrections of earlier versions only partly comprehensible to us.”