The 45-min-long work Atomic B for ensemble, electronics and two video screens is connected to nuclear power issues and various histories that nuclear energy has accumulated since its beginning. The work takes its starting point at Visaginas – an “atomic” town built in 1975 as part of a newly-constructed power plant in the Lithuanian territory of the former USSR. The town was designed to host the engineers, scientists and military personnel working in the power plant, and therefore it was considered a strategic and high-security zone. Taking post-soviet urbanistics and ecology as its starting point, the multimedia piece Atomic B explores the topic of nuclear power, unstable utopian ideas and their larger, societal impact.
Visaginas was planned in the shape of a butterfly, consisting of four wings or sectors – standard urban-design decision for power plants across the USSR. Each of these sectors were supposed to house atomic power plant workers, most of whom were brought from other parts of the USSR. Because of this, Visaginas has a very mixed ethnic constitution, as well as a high concentration of engineers, scientists and other professionals. Though the town was to become a model urban settlement, the planned construction of the town was never finished; only two sectors of the town were ever-built and the butterfly structure remains half-complete. After the Lithuanian independence, the atomic plant was shut down due to ecological security concerns. As a consequence, during the last decade the city population has begun to shrink dramatically. This unresolvedness embedded in the town’s consciousness forms the main narrative arch in Atomic B.
The multimedia work takes this unresolved narrative as its starting point and dives into the issues of the ecology, nuclear power and unstable utopian ideas. Atomic B proposes multiple ways of reacting to current history of ecological disasters and the political undertones of the nuclear power plant. The work uses archival footage from the 1970’s during the construction of Visaginas town and its nuclear plant. This footage, while having obvious Soviet propaganda attributes, documents the construction and the daily life of the town and its new inhabitants. While the film had a strong political agenda to present the effects of urbanisation and nuclear power in positive light, a certain uneasiness emerges from the cinematic aesthetics and various unnerving camera angles used.
In Atomic B this footage is reconstructed and recomposed, exposing its visual qualities and focusing on the camera movement as well as peripheral details and shots. The recomposed footage is coupled with text material constructed from various found texts, such as retold memories from Visaginas’ inhabitants about their life in the town, as well as excerpts from texts on utopian cities and architecture. These are all seamlessly mixed in a continuous narrative which forms a dialogue with the archival images and audio-visual footage. The video material is projected on two screens (preferably), with the recomposed video on one and the text material on the other screen, creating a tightly intertwined dialogue.
The fully notated score for small ensemble and electronics creates a similarly unnerving, but simultaneously direct and alarming musical world. Harmonies and distorted sounds often merge into each other, with the intention of creating multiple musical islands, both in connection to the marginal ethnic constitution of Visaginas and to the classic imagery of utopias. The instruments form various dialogues with the speech material, while tracing the speed and directions of the visual projection. Highly rhythmical and intense musical textures carry on throughout the whole work, merging with noisy electronics and the distorted video material. The intention was a space in which ideas of belonging, identity and reimagining the futures can all coexist within one musical inhabitant, although in many musical speeches and voices.
Atomic B was commissioned by Ensemble Synaesthesis in 2017 and funded by the Fonds Podiumkunsten (NL) and Lithuanian Council for Culture (LT). The first, 30-min long version of the piece was premiered at the Melos-Ethos festival in Bratislava (SK) in 2017. In 2018 the work received Lithuanian Composers Union Award.