Perry's work is a rather eclectic mix of art, science and philosophy, specifically exploring the boundaries between culture and nature. Nuclear Garden II is Perry's formal variant of a Japanese Zen garden, typically a garden without plants, such as the 'dry landscape' found at the Ryo¯an-ji temple in Kyoto, where an arrangements of stones is set among a pattern of raked sand. An essential but invisible component of Perry's variation, which forgoes the raked sand in favour of a black steel frame construction supporting a number of stones, is the small quantity of uranium reactor fuel contained within one of the stones. 'What interests me about uranium is that it is an almost never-ending (poetic) source of energy and as such becomes a miniature sun held within the garden that outwardly continues as an object of aesthetic contemplation.' The presence of the small quantity of uranium recalls in part the natural nuclear fission reactor which occurred at Oklo (Gabon) 2 billion years ago and ran untended (but in perfect equilibrium) for a few hundred thousand years. We emphasise 'recalls in part ...' because the amount of uranium in Nuclear Garden II is so small that the reactor can never reach 'critical mass'. As such it is a 'sub-critical' nuclear reactor.
Paul Perry is advisor at the Rijksakademie.
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