In the first equation, the half-life is found from the natural log of 2 divided by lambda (λ), the decay constant. The decay constant is specific to each radionuclide as it is related to its half-life. This equation could use values pertinent to the parents of 238Pu, 238Pu itself, and then its decay products.

In the second equation, the activity (A) of a source at time t (At) is found if you know the initial activity (A0) and the time (t) since its creation. This equation could be used for calculating the hypothetical activity of the thermoelectric generator after t years of operation. We discussed using this formula in relation to the idea of a hypothetical future in which the lighthouse would still be operating.

Later on, I visited the Department of Physics, where I spoke to Professors Kerttuli Helariutta, Kenichiro Mizohata and Igor Prozheev. Together, we discussed the possibility of working with a formula that contains a specific numeric value that could be applied to pair certain words or letters of the daina to numbers and produce sounds.

The sound-related process originates both from the daina, and the formula of radioactive decay connected to one specific lighthouse: Ainazi. Concerning this specific location, I asked the team to help me with setting a numeric value to use. Professor Kerttuli Helariutta replied:

«I tried to check our quickly the mass of 238Pu in radioactive generators of some lighthouses that would be easily accessible, but couldn't immediately find a good answer. But something could be estimated from the values found from the Wikipedia article on RTGs:(  In space, they have used these, and it seems the amount has been from 1 kg to 7.8 kg, corresponding output powers from about 500 - 4000 W.  With the values provided, I estimated that 1 kg of fuel gives out about 550 W of energy. On the other hand, there was information on the powers used in the Soviet-built lighthouses, based on 90Sr fuel, and these range from 300 to 2200 W with average of 900 W.  Using these values (a bit random, but maybe with a right order of magnitude), we can get the weight of the fuel to be 900 W/550 W/kg = 1.6 kg.

For calculating the activity of this much 238Pu, we first calculate the number of 238Pu atoms in 1.6 kg using the molar mass (238 mol/g) and Avogadro constant (6.022*10^23 atoms/mol), and get

N = 6.022*10^23 atoms/mol * 1600 g/238 g/mol = 4.048 * 10^24 atoms.

Then we know that the activity is the number of the atoms multiplied by the decay constant (in seconds) and get

A = 4.048*10^24 * ln(2) / (87.7 y * 365 d/y * 24 h/d * 60 min/h * 60 s/min) = 1.0146 * 10^15 Bq, so about 1000 TBq in other words.

I think this could give you an estimate of a starting value?»

The lighthouses.

A decoding process is thus used to convert a daina into sound using the code of a mathematical formula taken from radioactive decay. To prepare for this process, I visited the department of Chemistry and Physics at Helsinki University and spoke to various researchers on radioactivity, who gave me their insights into their research areas and the specifics of radioactive decay.

At the department of Chemistry, I spoke to Professors Gareth Law and Mirkka Sarparanta. They helped me gain a better understanding of radioactive energy, illustrating their ongoing research and the facilities they are using. We spoke about the radioactive substance I have selected to work from, Plutonium-238, which has been used in radioisotope thermoelectric generators like those that powered the former soviet lighthouses. From the notes Prof. Gareth Law sent me:

238Pu is an artificial isotope, a man-made element, first discovered by Glenn Seaborg and co-workers in 1940 from uranium-238 atoms (a natural isotope of uranium. They impacted the uranium with deuterium atoms (a natural isotope of uranium). They impacted the uranium with deuterium atoms (H-2) using a cyclotron. This procedure created isotopes of other elements by changing the number of protons in the targeted nucleus. First, an isotope of neptunium (238Np) is created. The 238Np atoms are quite unstable, so they undergo a beta-minus decay (negatron decay, a neutron in the nucleus transforms into a proton). This creates 238Pu.

238Pu has a half-life of 87.7 years and decays to 234U via alpha emission (which has a decay energy of 5.593 MeV.) From here, along the radium decay chain, 238Pu atoms would eventually form stable 206Pb.


We have discussed the use of two possible formulas:

Images taken at the Department of Chemistry, Helsinki University 2022

Images taken at the Department of Physics, Helsinki University 2022

IV - Decoding process


How are symbolic images, as perpetuated through myths, interfering with our reading of reality? And how are these myths changing along with the radical changes introduced by the industrial revolution? Can reality be understood as an independent entity, or isn’t its reading already shaping what happens next?

As different scholars (Schiller, Lefebvre and Federici, among others) have pointed out, the current understanding of reality emerged from a disenchantment with the pre-existing way of reading, first of all, of space. Indeed, a reading of space as a surface—interchangeable, little characterized by specific traits—is the premise that has allowed the process of massive colonization of land as we can witness today to be conceived. In my readings of Cristina Campo I have been haunted by a statement in which she describes writing: "It is or it would like to be from one end to the other a small attempt of dissidence from the play of the forces, 'a profession of disbelief in the almightiness of the visible.'"1 There is no other way of relating to one's own veils if not through an attitude of disbelief which, far from seeking to gain an objective viewone that would claim absolute truthwishes to keep instead a disposition of openness. Cristina, or better Vittoria,2 wrote about fairy tales and religion, about the possibility of language to open up a different way of perceiving the given reality. I consider mythological images, fairy tales and religious symbols as deeply interconnected, as different aspects of the same substance that bring about a way of looking originating from a process of decodingalthough often misunderstood, or misinterpreted. But is there a 'correct' interpretation? Perhaps the answer is no, as symbolic images cannot but talk to the individual personally, even when they address social groups. And when, suddenly, an image comes into contact with lived experience it is as if an interruption takes place: reality is on hold for a second, while the new reading overlaps and interferes with it, before it normalizes again.

With the intention of finding a correspondence between ancient myths and symbols and contaminated spaces, this project unfolds through its own decoding process to develop into a participatory ritual to be held in Latvia. The aim of this process is to elaborate a set of instructions to be given to the participants, inviting them to enter the ritual through assonances or dissonances, by following specific rules and/or breaking them: to enter a space where the myth can be lived. My practice uses a re-interpretation of rituals as a means to reach a form of embodied knowledge through the enactment of symbolic images. A ritual is a performed act: the word 'ritual' is deemed to originate from the Sanskrit Rta: Order, rule, with the meaning of aligning one's actions to the structure of the cosmos. Similarly, the Chinese word for rite/ritual: li "means primarily to behave according to the unification between the cosmos (heaven) and the social/moral (human) via bodily gesture and technical means. Li is sometimes compared with fa (law) in its normalising role" (Hui, 2021).

Contemporary artists have been using rituals to address environmental-related issues, and bring a different understanding of them through mythological images and ancient traditions. For example, the video installation Karikpo Pipeline (2015) by artist Zina Saro-Wiwa uses traditions from local folklore to perform a dance on old oil pipelines in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta. I am particularly fascinated by how this artwork can build a connection between ancient traditions and the reading of a modern infrastructure apt at conveying energy. Patty Chang’s project The Wandering Lake (2009-2017) is a personal, associative, narrative meditation on mourning, caregiving, geopolitics and landscape. Chang has looked at water resources as a political and poetical infrastructure, inspired by colonial explorer Sven Hedin’s book Wandering Lake, in which he attempts to map the location of a migrating body of water in the Chinese desert. The lake has now disappeared. Artist Lee Mingwei has worked on rituals, in particular rituals of giving and receiving. In The Moving Garden (2009-) Lee invites visitors to take flowers, with the instruction of bringing them out of the museum and giving them to a stranger. In Sonic Blossom (2013-) the spectators of the exhibition receive the gift of a song. These works are just a few examples of how contemporary artists are re-visiting rituals, symbols and traditions for the creation of a different social narrative, to avoid what Hui has described as the future of human technology: an apocalypse without revelation. Through my artistic process I aim to go in the same direction, re-imagining a ritual that could speak to a collective consciousness through the means of an ancient mythological image.

From here, I have been discussing the possible way of generating sound from the daina with sound artist Notorische Ruhestörung, who has generated experiments using the first formula:

«Just as found in the daina, the basic note keeps on being played throughout the piece. I chose 87,721≈9 for t=1 or A for this note as A is the ninth note of the chromatic scale starting with C=1. The remaining notes are each 87,721≈9 (or 3, being the root of 9) semitones apart as this is the factor by which the element decaysalso known as the diminished scale. See also the formula t(1/2)=In(2)/λ for λ=0.0079. I added an 8-bar intro introducing our scale, ending on the lowest note available, C. So when adding the permanent note A, the decay rate is everpresent as the interval of 87,7219 semitones. After a total of 87,721 9 bars of drone, the daina starts in the upper register.

I go through the first four lines, and will now introduce the fourth and fifth voice in the drone when moving on to the 2nd part of the poem. Whenever the words repeat, the melody repeats as well.»


And using the second formula:

«I created the scale by inserting the values for A0 to A10 into the formula At=A0e^λt for Plutonium238. To portray the increasing decrease, I chose the series of the first digit after the comma of each result, 9-8-8-8-7-7-7-6-6-5-5. Starting on C, I added this series of intervals, resulting in C-A-F-C#-A-E-H-F#-C-F#-B-E. Removing double notes, I ended up with the scale C-C#-E-F-F#-A-B. A very interesting aspect of this scale are two clusters of three chromatic notes each, which permits both minor and major tonalities of the same note, which is uncommon in Western traditional music. The piece starts with a slow, one-track intro. Only when the melody line comes in, more than one note can be heard at a time. The 7th to 18th bar represents poem one. After that, poem 2 kicks in - but at double speed. In order to represent increasing decay, the tempo doubles various times throughout the piece; e.g. the first two notes are being held for 8 beats each, the 3rd and 4th only for four, poem 1 is played at 65bpm, but poem 2 at 130bpm. The intro consists of siren-like sounds taking advantage of the two chromatic clusters, and ends and peaks in the original scale C-A-F-C#-A-E-H-F#-C-F#-B-E.»

Bērziņš auga ceļmalâ

Trejadàmi lapiņàm,

Tâi trešâi lapiņâ

Saule lēja sudrabiņu.

Bērziņš auga ceļmalâ

Trejadàm lapiņàm:

Pirmajâ Saule lēca,

Otrâ saule norieteja,

Trešajâ lapiņâ

Zelts, sidrabis laistijàs.

Zeltiņi nuclear missile base.

During my residency at Rucka I collected soil samples from my visits to the former missile base of Zeltiņi. Back in Helsinki, I attended a soil chromatography workshop at SOLU/Bioart Society, where I learned how to process the samples into chromatography. Soil chromatography is a method developed in biodynamics to assess the quality of the soil. A circular image is produced from a soil sample, where the various substances which constitute the soil separate on the filter paper.  

Following Pfeiffer’s chromatography protocol, 10 grams of soil (approximately one spoon) are ground and then placed in a flask containing 100 ml of 1% solution of NaOH which will extract the soil components. The solution is agitated by hand for 2 minutes and then left to rest for 15 minutes. It is then agitated again after 1 hour and 2 hours and will sediment for the subsequent 2 hours. In the meantime, in a dark room, a Whatman segment of filter paper is pierced to contain a wick in the middle and imbibed on a petri dish containing 0.5% solution of silver nitrate, AgNO3. Then, after changing the wick, the paper can be imbibed with the solution containing extracted soil on a different petri dish, this time outside the dark room. The image develops slowly, and once it reaches the desired spot on the paper (approximately 6 cm diameter) can be placed on the window to continue to develop the next day. Through this process, one can notice how different components of the soil are separated in the paper. Radial features are read as characteristics of the fertility of the soil, while concentric patterns indicate the presence of clay, and silt.3

I think of the chromatography as a map in relation to the space of Zeltiņi. Maps represent space without any form of resemblance, and are themselves a peculiar translation of it— they are symbolic objects. Eliade described sacred space as beginning from a process of orientation.4 I see the map as a representation of the real, residing in two simultaneous dimensions: one where an abstraction takes place, and its translation into the lived experience. Meanwhile, this same abstraction (the map) confers a quality, an interpretation to the space that it shapes. The experience of space/reality can be described as a growing substance, not stable matter but one that is subject to ongoing, sudden changes.

I have been looking at the movements of the slime mold Physarium Polycephalum after placing it on an image of the map of Zeltiņi to observe its relationship with it. This particular slime mold has been studied for its capacity to "think without a brain", finding the best paths between food sources. My intent was to observe how a non-animal and non-human entity capable of motion relates to movement and space.

During a residency at Eskus, Centre for Performance Art, Helsinki, I have been working on movement improvisation towards the creation of specific rules. I started the process by exploring different ways of measuring the space: walking, and pointing directions. I then interpreted the chromatography in relation to the composed music and the mold. My approach to the music has undergone different phases, from deep listening to repeatedly inhabiting it through movements. My personal exploration aimed at experiencing what it could mean to embody an image, while I have been working on a set of instructions based on limitations and openings.

Decay I

Decay II