Nutopia 2011

Nutopia 2011 is a collaboration project between a physicist Tim Byrnes and an artist Kyoko Ebata, started after the Fukushima incident in Japan. 

Ebata and Byrnes made a hypothesis to make a nuclear energy power plant in model scale just to  the illumination of  a small biotope (a sealed environment in a bottle). The purpose of the experiments is to try gain a relation to how we live in the world, making simple power generators and bottle gardens, sometimes inventing ceremonies in the process, documented in photography. 

The thematic starting point of the project w
as to think about the way we live in a world with the aid of energy at the same time referring to romanticised landscape. After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011, there was a sense that the landscape of Japan couldn't be perceived without reference to radioactive material. The energy issue is a very complicated one, and Byrnes and Ebata thought that it might be valuable to think about the energy issue on a smaller scale to see what it offers to a wider understanding of the context of nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster - a process with both subject and objective elements, and an engagement between Ebata's fearful opposition and Byrnes's belief in the potential of new energy.

As the project develops, the discussion between the scientist and the artist itself has come to symbolise relations in the wider world, the process of experimentation itself was emotionally loaded with the aura of the disaster, and as the process developed, ceremonies were added that reflect a willfully subjective approach to human life. Through, their approach trying to conduct the experiment in a “right” way ethically and legally, they try to understand the reality alongside re-acknowledging the difference in the value system and the fact that no right way exists. While Byrnes tries a scientific way, Ebata takes romantic attitude, and calls a impromptu funeral Shrimp Funeral and conducts another one, Melting in Seas of Tears by melting the frozen tears of her own together with the dead shrimp.

In July 2013, "How we Dance in the Wind", a one day show of three artists concerned with how, in the way we relate to them, we can deal with what is troubling about the unknown, undetermined or unseen, was held in a private garden of Ebata in Tokyo curated by Ebata Alasdair Duncan and Ebata, invited Tatsuo Majima. Prototype PROTOTYPE III (ii): HEAT PACK, and PROTOTYPE IV (ii): GLOW STICK were shown together with the photographs was exhibited

In August, following the garden show in Tokyo, another group show “Gardening” at a garden of Duncan in London was held with different curation and artist. For this show, “Prototype V: Three devices of class B Radioactive source” were exhibited. Prototype V, in Garden Projects #2 uses light from tritium, a radioactive isotope, sandwiched between solar panels to create electricity which powers several LED lights. We have succeeded to complete the task of setting up a semipermanent device powered by radioactive substance and set up in a sealed environment which represent the earth.

The radioactive substances regulation laws differ in each country. In order to conduct whole process by law, the tritium sticks were purchased in Holland and sent to UK. The device was assembled accordance to “Guidance on the scope of and exemptions from the radioactive substances legislation the UK”, September 2011, Version 1.0 (*1), tritium light sticks used here are categorized as class B which is target of exemption if it is under 1X10(12) bq (non-mobile).

The process of making the project - planning and making devices and environments, undertaking ceremonies, and documenting these - is one of building close-at-hand meta- phors which we can relate to as stand-ins. By making a metaphoric things to stand in for that which we cannot know, we are able to suture, to stitch up, to close, some of the discomfort of that not-knowing. In the place of the mere gap of the unknown, is placed a sign for that unknown as some- thing knowable as unknown.


Prototype I

Prototype II

Prototype III

Prototype IV

Funeral I (Shrimp Cocktail)

 Ceremony I

    1) Place the deceased shrimp in the glass 
    2) Place the glass together with other empty glasses to form a cocktail tower.
    3) Poor alcohol to empty glasses
    4) Place candles, incense and flowers
    5) Light up the candles and incense
    6) Pray
    7) Sing any kind of religious song (in my case Ave Maria)
    8) Drink alcohol
    9) Cremate the shrimps
   10) Dig a hole by a tree and place the cremated shrimps
   11) Drink alcohol

Funeral I I (Melted in the Sea of Tears)

Collected tears (the ice above contains the tears of the artist)

I kept on making experiments and kept on failing them.  So it was quite natural that I had to hold another ceremony. I was easy to cry those days and sometime I cried so much because there were quite a few sad events happened including my mother’s hospitalisation.  I thought if I cry so much I should be able to keep the tears in a container to make ice. I think I was influenced by a story on radio that a radio announcer collected his sweat to make salt at home.

Ceremony II

 I. Collect tears into the container when ever tear drops
    II.  Add the collected tears to the ice cube maker together with the deceased shrimps
 III.   Freeze the ice cube maker
 IV.   Take the ice out and place in the glasses
 V.  Place the glasses together with candles, incense and flowers
 VI.   Light up the candles and incense
 VII.  Pray
 VIII. Sing any kind of religious song
 IX.   Drink alcohol while the ice is melting

Exhibition View in Tokyo

Exhibition View in London

Prototype V

The tritium light sticks are actually generating the LED.

<First Plan>


Brazil nuts are radioactive; needs 10 billion kilograms.

投稿日:01/13/2013 作成者: Kyoko
Tim wrote;

brazil nuts 1,000 to 7,000 pCi/kg of radon-226 and 5,600pCi/kg of potassium-40

bananas 1 pCi/kg of radon-226 and 3,520 pCi/kg of potassium-40

potatoes 1 to 2.5 pCi/kg of radon-226 and 3,400 pCi/kg of potassium-40

DIY Nuclear reactor in US and Sweden

投稿日:01/13/2013 作成者: Kyoko

“Radioactive Boy Scout” 1994

David Charles Hahn (born October 30, 1976), also called the “Radioactive Boy Scout” or the “Nuclear Boy Scout“, is an American who attempted to build a homemade breeder nuclear reactor in 1994, at age 17. A scout in the Boy Scouts of America, Hahn conducted his experiments in secret in a backyard shed at his mother’s house in Commerce Township, Michigan. While his reactor never reached critical mass, Hahn attracted the attention of local police who found radioactive materials in the trunk of his car. His mother’s property was cleaned up by the Environmental Protection Agency ten months later as a Superfund cleanup site. Hahn attained Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts of America shortly after his reactor was dismantled.[1]

While the incident was not widely publicized initially, it became better known following a 1998 Harper’s article by journalist Ken Silverstein. Hahn is also the eponymous subject of Silverstein’s 2004 book, The Radioactive Boy Scout.

Swedish man arrested for building nuclear reactor in kitchen, 2011

A Swedish man who kept a blog chronicling his attempts to build a homemade nuclear reactor in his apartment has shut down the project after being arrested by police and held under suspicion of breaching radioactive material safety laws.  If convicted of an offence, he faces heavy fines or up to two years in jail.

↑The bottle of chewing gum sold in 2011 says words of Madam Curie: There is nothing that you should be scared of in your life. All should be understood.


Tried heating up nails to get the heat and it stank a lot!

Changed to BQ style with cole which seems o all right, at least less smelly.

The power up electronic circuits!

投稿日:01/20/2013 作成者: Kyoko


 Now working with a heat pack (ホッカイロ) with an aid of powered up electronic circuits.The lights has      been on for half a day now… I wonder how long it is going to go.

I have managed to break it by spilling water when I carried. 

A Shrimp Couple and a Tanishi Family
投稿日:01/27/2013 作成者: Kyoko

It was full of life and death this weekend.

We have started to try out with the biotope to go with the nuclear power station and went to buy stuff from a pet shop in Kabukicho.

There were beautiful waterweed and all these beautiful fish in tank. But it was rather strange to see fish and weed from Brazil or Africa.  A bit of a flesh trade that was, like what is going on upstairs in Kabukicho, the biggest red light district in Asia.

In the end we bought  a pair of shrimp which was next to Amano shrimp around 2 cm which we were going to buy initially. The Amano shrimp was bigger than we expected. They all come in a beautiful plastic bags separately, beautifully brown up in a round shape. 

We brought back a couple of Amano shrimp- alike, a couple of shell (Tanishi) and waterweed home: The shrimp and shell happen to be originated in Japan and we were proud of our choice. As soon as we got home, we have added stone from garden and water from the store and little animals to the glass jar.   

We watched for a while and discovered that there are man and woman in these spices. Couldn’t tell which one is which but it was so nice to imagine that the shrimp and shell are on date. 

After a while we have made another discovery that there were baby shells.  Apparently, if a shell get pregnant, she keeps her babies inside herself until hard shells are formed and then she releases  the babies into water. So the shell was pregnant when we bought her and she was in labour while we were having a drink. 

It was looking good for a while but after the dinner, we noticed that the shrimp was upside down and  moving only a little and the shell was also not climbing the glass as it suppose to be.  And the shrimp sunk into the bottom of the jar and hardly moved. 

It might be the stones from my garden, we suspected. The red brick stones in my garden were bought via internet, a pretty ones but cheap. I bought the stones via Internet and we don’t know where the stones come from. Even if it is from Japan, no, if it is from Japan, then might have radioactive stuff (still hard to understand how to say this right) on them, or nobody checks what is going on at the actual site. 
We don’t know how it was treated to make them look clean. It should be better if it is toxic, it means less weeds. I rescued the shrimp which was alive with a spoon in a hurry and thinking it would also heart him/her, but better than being in the toxic water. 

The shrimp and the shells were the first pet I ever paid money for. I had a cat and birds when I was a child. But the birds flew in from the sky and stood on my arm, and the cat came with my father on a rainy day. I was responsible to look after a bird. One day I forgot to take the birdcage back on winter night. The next morning, the bird was dead, lying on the bottom of golden cage. It was a white Java sparrow with red eyes. The closed eyelids were greyish pink. Since then I swore myself never to keep a pet if I cannot look after. The first pets ever since then were reproduced and was dead soon after in few hours.

On the following day, the other shrimp was dead. We researched the courses and  I went to get freshwater from the local shrine, it supposes to be better to use water which has many bacterias. After placing everything back, the shrimp in better condition and the shell family is happy sticking on the glass wall. I am wondering if I should add a new shrimp to make a couple, it might be too crowded in there.

Shrimp #5
投稿日:01/29/2013 作成者: Kyoko

In the end, I bought another shrimp. I asked the shopkeeper about the shrimp. The shop keeper said “shrimp is sensitive with water and not good at lack of oxygen. It would be difficult to keep it without air pump. It would be better to keep killifish (medaka) .” But, the how-to for a biotope with shrimps says it is possible. So I have decided to follow the textbook. I placed the duck weed in a separate bucket for a week and changed water a few times hoping that it would wash away the pesticide by now. But  I am not sure any more. I bought the shrimp by knowing that I might kill it.

Came home and of course
投稿日:01/30/2013 作成者: Kyoko

I think a shrimp is dying. It’s neck is turning into red.  I am so so so sorry…

Oh, no. 
投稿日:01/31/2013 作成者: Kyoko

Yesterday morning, I thought, one of the shrimp was dead. In the end it was lying on the bottom of the jar not moving at all. I was very sad. I was thinking to give a name for a grave. Then I remembered a saying that a scientist does not give a name to an animal for experiments.  I now know why. 

When I got back home, I tried to get the dead shrimp out from the jar but I was too tired so I added the new couple without weeds to the jar so that they won’t die of hunger, and then went to bed.  

This morning, I checked the jar. Then I couldn’t find the dead shrimp, but instead, I found a shrimp with reddish neck. I am totally puzzled. I called the pet shop, found out the name of the shrimp next to the Numaebi (Amano shrimp), it was mimami numaebi (Southern Amano Shrimp). According to the shopkeeper, Amano Shrimp does change its color into the blue or red. If a shrimp is sick, it also change the color into red. 

Oh, no. He/she is suffering. I should hurry and rescue my poor shrimp.

The 2nd Tanishi
投稿日:02/23/2013 作成者: Kyoko

The 2nd tanishi now has children. Quite a few of them, I think.
The condition of the glass is not that good. Strange web like thing is growing in there.

Shrimp Funeral a la cocktail

All the shrimps were dead again. I am afraid it sounds a bit weird but I wanted to do a little funeral for the shrimps. I realised that I had so much variety for the funeral, Buddhism, Christian, Voodoo, and so many others, as well as Burial or Cremation. Though, I didn’t have enough time to prepare much for this because the shrimps were getting rotten. Decided to improvise with things I could  find around my house..

It was unusually warm day for February. I set up a trey with incenses, candles, flowers, alcohol.  The one glass contained duckweed, the other one contained Campari soda, three glass in the middle contained Sake, and on the top  3 shrimps lied with flower. It represents this life, the next life and purification (oh, I sound mad). Frankly, the incense was necessary, because the “body” smelled. Only religious song I could sing was a catholic song in Latin which I remember from school. I felt very strange but it was necessary and beautiful in a way. And the ritual was in Buddhism I guess because only funeral I attended was Buddhism for my grandparents. I have to admit that it is a bit sick that in the end it turned out as a shrimp cocktail.

The next step was a cremation. I found a leftover charcoal from BBQ so I put the shrimps on top and burned it in the garden. Soon, they smelled rather yummy. I could have eaten as a part of ceremony but I am not that brave or crazy, so I continued to burn them until they were black and  to the ash. I have buried them and poured sake over. And the ritual was finished. I was very drank by the end of it. I thought the idea was completely kitschy and damn but it was not too bad in the end. I guess it was the power of rituals.

group exhibition in Ebata's garden in Tokyo

In London. Alasdair Duncan is developing the Nutopia

Later in Tokyo, the plants are growing and change through the season. 

I find this article is good :-)

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