Jürgen Nefzger, Fluffy Clouds

Jürgen Nefzger’s Fluffy Clouds (2010) begins with a written warning. The first photograph shows us a sign staked in the sand at the edge of a beach in Dounreay, Scotland, it reads:

Warning. Radioactive particles are being found on the beaches at Sandside.
It is not advisable to take children or animals on to or dig or remove material from the beach or dunes.

This is the only explicit warning in Fluffy Clouds that we receive.

What follows is a series of beautiful landscape photographs, 75 of them in total. In each we are presented with an open view of a beautiful landscape scene. The images are quiet and picturesque, some even romantic.

Trawsfynydd, North Wales, 2005 © Jürgen Nefzger
Trawsfynydd, North Wales, 2005 © Jürgen Nefzger

In each of the photographs we find a nuclear power plant. Even though they are man-made, the structures are presented as part of the landscape and not in opposition to it. In effect the structures become hidden in plain sight, embedded in the scene and okay.

The photographs are presented using the flow of the seasons, running from spring through to winter. The inclusion of the natural cycle further playing with the naturalness of the subject matter with which we are dealing.

We soon encounter ourselves, playing golf and football, farming, fishing, and swimming in the sea – all within plain sight of a nuclear power plant.

Nogent-sur-Seine, France, 2003 © Jürgen NefzgerNogent-sur-Seine, France, 2003 © Jürgen Nefzger

We appear to be accepting of, or oblivious to, the dangers inherent in these structures. We are asleep, quite literally.

Fluffy Clouds is not so much about nuclear energy per se, as it is about humans ability to negotiate, accept, and then forget about the risks associated with our current ways of living, or specifically the energy demands of our current ways of living.

“Fluffy Clouds approaches the inability of a species – ours – to sense the danger that is threatening it.”
– Christophe Catsaros

Our inability to perceive, or our ability to forget, mortal threats recalls the metaphor of the boiling frog. Wherein a frog is boiled alive when it is unable to detect the gradual heating of the water that it is sitting in. It is also recalled in news headlines such as “climate records are breaking so often now, we’ve stopped paying attention“.

Nefzger’s Fluffy Clouds is a necessary reminder to never forget the full character of the things that we are creating in the service of our living.