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Speaking Across Deep Time: Designing Markers For Nuclear Waste


Admission requirements

The course is suited to anyone interested in the implications of art and design in relation to deep time and the environment.


The storage of long-lived radioactive waste is among one of the biggest challenges of our generation. Radioactive fuel stored deep in the ground remains a danger for up to 100,000 years, or 3,000 generations. This opens up an inhuman perspective - how do we communicate into deep time not to dig into the geological layer where the waste is stored? How do we take responsibility for a future that is as unknown as it is unknowable? One way might be to mark the territories in particular ways in order to warn or communicate the danger. Your assignment in this seminar is to design a functioning repository marker. You can decide whether you want it to mark an actual repository site, or to make a critical contribution to the debate and sabotage the very idea of geological disposal. In the seminar, you will be given an overview of historical and contemporary (artistic) marking strategies and the problems they address.

Course objectives

Participating students can expect to:

  • gain a fuller understanding of the issues surrounding nuclear waste and its disposal, through visits, lectures, the close reading of key texts and engaging in discussion-based seminars;

  • refine research and analytical skills and improve/learn new research methods distilled from the humanities, archaeology, future studies and speculative design;

  • improve/learn writing and editing skills;

  • improve/learn making skills through a variety of materials and techniques;

  • improve/learn skills involved in curating and realising an exhibition.


Academic year 2019-2020, first semester

Dates and times

6 classes in the fall of 2019; Wednesdays, 10:00-13:00 hrs.
First class on Wednesday 11 September 2019.


The lectures/workgroups take place at KABK, room BB 112.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught via a combination of lectures, guided discussion of key texts, site visits, group workshopping of writing and design concepts, hands-on making workshops, and individual tutorials. A PhD scholar who is a specialist on the topic of nuclear semiotics will provide the theoretical underpinnings to the artistic output. In addition, we plan to organize a day trip with the students to the Dutch nuclear storage facility COVRA near Vlissingen.

Course Load

Study load: 3 EC
Contact hours: 18
Independent study: 66

Assessment method

Students are required to research and produce a short written essay on the topic which articulates their positioning and approach, to deliver a design proposal for a nuclear waste marker, and to translate the position, documentation of research and the final design proposal into an exhibition presentation.

Reading list

  • Bryan-Wilson, Julia. “Building a Marker of Nuclear Warning”. Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade. Ed. Robert S. Nelson and Margaret Olin. Chicago, London: Chicago UP, 2003. 183–204.

  • Schröder, Jantine. “Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste: A Long-Term Socio-Technical Experiment”. Science and Engineering Ethics 22.3 (Juni 2016): 687–705.

  • Van Wyck, Peter C. “American Monument: The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant”. Atomic Culture: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. University of Colorado Press, 2004. 149–172.

  • Parikka, Jussi. A Geology of Media. University of Minnesota Press, 2015. Parikka, J. (2015). A Geology of Media. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Lecturer: Dr. Alice Twemlow
Coordinator: Dhr. ir. R.T.W.L. Schneemann


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