U. Kanad Chakrabarti
I have been thinking about the intertwined histories that arise from the Cold War—how the legacy of nuclear testing, which took place over forty years from the 1950s to the 1990s, has metastasized into an intensely financialised consumer capitalism that disproportionately impacts the Global South. It is extensively documented that testing by the French and British, and the U.S., had an incredibly negative impact, both immediate and delayed, upon indigenous populations living in and around test sites in the South Pacific, Australia, and North Africa. Meanwhile the Soviets trashed the Arctic and Kazakhstan. By 1996, the Cold War adversaries, who had up to that point been testing in "remote" and "uninhabited" locations, acceded to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Since the CTBT forbade test explosions, this move was akin to incumbent nuclear powers essentially closing the door to the "atomic club." The CTBT also increased the importance of simulation and high-performance computing: in the absence of actual physical data, any new weapons development required computationally- intensive mathematical modelling of how a nuclear weapon might detonate.

It turns out that simulation is ubiquitous: it is central to video games, weather forecasting, and artificial intelligence. So I embarked on a quixotic quest to recreate scenes from Bruce Conner's seminal 1976 film Crossroads (about the U.S. nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll) on a gaming rig using digital tools such as Maya and Houdini. This grew into a video-essay wrapped within a sculptural installation, where I interrogate connections between the Cold War and consumer capitalism.
There is a strong flavour of alterity, woven into both material and content, that I think is a logical extension of my earlier work. While previous pieces were concerned with the Mediterranean, this video is more connected with the lands between Europe and Asia. Living in Russia and Kazakhstan until 2010, I became interested in Eurasia, both as place and idea. It really has a very rich history—for instance, Russians, both Tsarist and Soviet, were active geographers, linguists and colonisers in Persia and Central Asia. They were working against the backdrop of the Great Game, a "cold peace" of sorts, played between Tsarist Russia and Great Britain to control the mountain passes that led from Central Asia to British India.

Today, Eurasia the geopolitical concept has (re-)gained currency with China's Belt and Road Initiative. Will this be yet another iteration of the same story: countries locked into a mercantilist program whereby, admittedly with the participation of local elites, they take on debt and/or extract natural resources at considerable environmental or human cost, so that their populations may purchase consumer goods made by American, European, and increasingly, Chinese multinationals? I should also note Eurasia's connotation, at least for me, of nomadism, of a peripatetic existence, which reflects my own history but is obviously rather unfashionable in the current nativist climate.
Video-essays are dense things. So the question becomes one of where to cut, what to edit, how to present, whether and where to show the 'back-story'. Put another way, how does one take the book, and re-present that particular complex of information, with its presumption of crystallised or archival facticity, in a way that reopens potential for ambiguity and interpretation? I also think it's important that this edition of Queens International foregrounds the library—institutional guardians of culture, libraries are very much under threat from budget cuts (as in the UK) and the internet's digitization of knowledge.
U. Kanad Chakrabarti (b. 1974, Ranchi, India) earned an MA in Painting and Critical Theory from the Slade School of Fine Art at the University College London (2015) and a BSc in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1994). His MA was supported by a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship, and he was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2015. His group exhibitions include Spring/Break Art Show, New York, NY (2018); The Whitechapel Gallery, London (2016); CCA Glasgow, Glasgow (2016); Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2016); SongEun Art Space, Seoul (2016); Mingsheng Art Museum, Beijing (2016); Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2016); Backlit Gallery, Nottingham (2015); and LIMBO Arts, Margate (2015). He lives and works in Woodhaven, Queens.