Some people call it Uranium Glass, insiders call it Vaseline Glass because its color and internal sheen resembles Vasoline as it was made around the 1930’s. The long and short of it is that it’s glass doped with Uranium, fluoresces under ultraviolet wavelengths, and it is absolutely beautiful. Check it out:
Vaseline Glass is some lovely, lovely stuff, isn’t it? Just to show its awesomeness, let’s look at a piece from the Depression era, lit with long wave UV:
Most evidences of this glass come from between the mid-to-late-1700’s to current manufacturing, and yeah, it’s literally made with uranium, the radioactive element that we all have heard of in some form or fashion. There are instances of this glass being located in a mosaic containing yellow glass with 1% uranium oxide found in a Roman villa, and the guy who discovered Uranium, Martin Klaproth, who was apparently also using the newly discovered element as a glass colorant.
That green color is eerie, yeah? or as the Canadians say, “eh?”
Two artists took that idea of Uranium-doped glass and turned it into a statement on the horrific Fukushima-Daiichi disaster. Meet Ken and Julia Yonetani‘s work, named Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations. They took metal wire, Uranium glass, and some UV lighting and created twenty-nine chandeliers representing the twenty-nine nations using nuclear power. Check it out:
From Ken and Julia’s website on the work:
In direct response to Japan’s 2011 horrific Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident and the phenomenon of leaking radiation, Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations comprises an installation of chandeliers made from vintage Uranium glass beads alongside glowing text based works made from vintage Uranium glass tubing shaped into words such as – ‘radioactive’, ‘meltdown’ and ‘electric dreams’.
Chandeliers are not only an item of luxury, but also an extravagant emblem of the beauty of electricity and the seductiveness of consumerism.The artists have reconfigured them to emanate UV light instead of standard light, and decorated them with specially sourced Uranium glass in place of traditional crystals.
“You can’t see, smell or perceive radiation with your senses, but it becomes visible in our works when illuminated with ultraviolet lights,” says Julia Yonetani. “Presented in darkness, the glass chandeliers and tubes glow with an eerie bright green light indicating the presence of radiation. We hope to prompt viewers to react in their own way to this radioactive presence.”
Commonly used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for sugar bowls, cake stands and other decorative objects, Uranium glass contains very small traces of Uranium within the glass, is legal and poses no health risks.
Crystal Palace references London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, which was intended as a platform to celebrate both modern technology and to enhance Great Britain’s role as a leading industrial nation of the time.
“The chandeliers in Crystal Palace represent the USA, Japan, Germany, Finland, France and various other countries. For the complete body of work we will ultimately make a total of 29 chandeliers, which represent each of the countries that operate nuclear power stations today,” says Ken Yonetani.
“The size of each chandelier correlates to the scale of each country’s nuclear output, with the chandelier representing the USA being the largest at 1.6m in diameter and 2m high.”
“My family lives in Tokyo, quite close to where the disaster happened,” he adds. “At the time of the tsunami, Japan had 54 operating nuclear reactors, relying on them for 30% its total electric power. The Fukushima accident shows Japan’s complacency around nuclear power and radiation and also asks questions of Australians, because Australia is the number one exporter of Uranium to Japan.”
That’s a heck of a statement, and Crystal Palace is one heck of an exhibit. Ken and Julia’s work will be playing at the Artereal Gallery in Sydney, Australia from October 3 to November 4, 2012. Check it out if you’re there, this has to be awesome!
Ken and Julia Yonetani: