Chernobyl’s Herbarium

Picture, 2012

Anais Tondeur (FR)

20.11.15 – 21.02.16

Chernobyl’s Herbarium

On Saturday 26th of April 1986 at 1:23:58 a.m. local time, a test in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant took a disastrous turn. The core of reactor No.4 exploded, emitting a plume of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere, that drifted across the then Western Soviet Union and Europe. Twenty-nine years after the accident, the thirty kilometers of exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl nuclear plant is now being reopened and reveals itself as a place for opulent wildlife.

The herbarium — a collection of dried plants — of specimens from the exclusion zone is based on the research undertaken on plant genetics by Martin Hajduch in the Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology at Slovak Academy of Sciences. He looks at traumas endured by the flora in these areas of high radiation holding a particular interest in the Linaceae species. Seeds of this species have been planted in the irradiated soil near the meltdown site to test the impact of the radiation on the flora.

The imprints of the specimens are caught through a photogram process — a technique that mirrors the effect of the extreme exposure of light that the atomic bomb emits on explosion — evident in the imprinted shadows left on the land after the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. The photogram technique uses light as a source to record and archive trauma on the species just as the atomic explosions have illuminated and scarred the mind. With this series of plant imprints, the artist aims to interrogate the scars of a tragedy, the traces of an invisible substance.


Anaïs Tondeur is a visual artist. She works and lives in Paris. She has been commissioned to work as an artist in residence with the scientists from the Natural History Museum as well as Pierre and Marie Curie University, Sorbonne, Paris in 2015 and at the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, Paris in 2015, Hydrodynamics Laboratory (LadHyx) at Ecole Polytechnique, National Centre for Scientific Research, France (2013-2015). She is currently beginning a research on urban soils with anthropologists as part of Chamarande’s lab curated by COAL (Coalition for Art and Sustainable Development). Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions shown nationally and internationally. GV Art, London represents Anaïs’s work. Anaïs graduated from a M.A. in Mixed-Media at the Royal College of Art in London in 2010 after completing a Bachelor (Hons) Textiles at Central Saint Martins College in London in 2008.