Creators wanted "to bring to the viewer the fear of the unknown".
Ken and Julia Yonetani bring "arts" made of radioactive uranium glass beads to Australia, "to convey the fear of contamination that Japan has been living with since last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster", according to The Sydney Morning Herald (8/5/2012):
KEN and Julia Yonetani are adamant their radioactive artworks are safe. They even had scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation measure the amount of radiation produced by the works in What the Birds Knew.
Yet it's hard not to feel apprehensive in the presence of installations that glow brightly because of the uranium glass beads used in their creation.
''I guess when you turn on the light and it glows and you've been handling it all day you go 'oh','' Julia says. ''We got the beads tested just to make sure because when people hear 'uranium' they automatically think of danger.''
The couple, who have previously created artworks with salt and sugar, used 50,000 uranium glass beads in USA, a two-metre-wide chandelier that illuminates the ground floor of the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Haymarket. It is the largest of the 30 chandeliers they will create to represent the nuclear-powered nations of the world.
Upstairs, a six-metre ant made of 10,000 beads stands opposite glowing warning signs that read ''meltdown'' and ''radioactive''. The uranium glass came from a US company and wasn't difficult to import into Australia nor dangerous to use.
Uranium glass is not sufficiently radioactive to pose a health hazard to viewers either, the Yonetanis say. It was widely used in the late 19th-century to make decorative objects such as sugar bowls, cake stands and drinking glasses.
The installations might emit less radiation than a smoke detector or mammogram but they are designed to convey the fear of contamination that Japan has been living with since last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster.
''We were trying to bring to the viewer the fear of the unknown,'' Julia says.
Fear of the unknown? So make it known by telling us what the air dose level is in microsievert/hour right beneath the 50,000-bead chandelier. Then we'll decide if it's "safe".
(UPDATE) Of course. The air dose rate would be background, as uranium emits alpha. Thank you readers. I still don't want to be near the chandelier, much as I don't want to be near those bricks made of uranium mining debris which are still used at the government ministry buildings.
(H/T John Noah)