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Shooting The Nitty Gritty: Factory Fifteen's Nuclear Shift [Video]

Using footage shot in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, Gamma revisits the nuclear history of Chernobyl and looks at how is could be rehabilitated. Plus, it’s supposed to be funny…
November 3, 2011, 8:52pm

Ever since we spotted UK-based creative collective Factory Fifteen‘s short films in our Gallery a few months ago, we’ve wondered if they’re inventing the future of architecture, but after hearing about their recent work, we’re now speculating whether their films are also historically foretelling.

On the last day of our New York event, we caught up with the group’s three founding members, Kibwe Tavares, Jonathan Gales and Paul Nicholls, who were there screening a selection of their vast, architecturally-intricate short films.

We talked about the importance of sound in tying the virtual and physical together, their personal dreamworlds (Kibwe’s is filled with robots, Paul’s is all gold), their new project with Channel 4 in London, and how their works, some of which reinterpret history set in the future, help them, their audience and hopefully the rest of the world, move forward in a more informed way. The trailer for their most recent work Gamma, was just released today. Here’s what they had to say about this bold new work…

Obviously we’ve loved all your short films thus far, but when are you releasing a new one? What are you working on currently?
Jonathan: Yes, at the moment we’re working on a short film, which is in collaboration with an architecture school, The Architecture Association, that came from a trip to Chernobyl and Kazakhstan. It’s concerned with the Russian future of nuclear energy, which was kind of abandoned in the 80s, and what Chernobyl is now, how the architecture detonates cities and is there a narrative kind of response to that? What that film is trying to do is talk about the space race and how Ukraine was the atomic capital of tomorrow and then the Chernobyl disaster of ‘86 [happened], which destroyed [the city] completely after only existing for 15 years. Now it’s a 300,000-person city, which has been abandoned for 25 years.

With all of the nuclear development leading up to the recent disaster of Fukushima, that kind of throws a whole weight of questions on how to deal with the nuclear when man hasn’t built a structure that’s lasted any more than 10 thousand years, but nuclear waste will be around for 500,000 years. For us, we’ve got a really light spin on it. Gamma for us is a company which is rehabilitated to de-radiating cities and stabilizing them, and then saying what happens when that goes wrong.

Paul: I think it’s really quite different, but at the same time, it’s a bit of a light relief for us. It’s still going to be dark and dingy. We’ve got some great footage that we’ve shot out there—lots of live action and things pumped into it.

Jonathan: We’re using it to try out some stuff in animation that we’ve never done before. There will be a lot of CG stuff. And also the fact that we’re working together now as a team is going to change that.

Paul: I think we’re kind of obsessed with putting ideas out there, looking at them and finding what goes wrong. It seems to be a reoccurring theme in some of our films. We kind of propose this elaborate scheme of technology and show what happens when it goes wrong.