International Day against Nuclear Tests – Towards a Safer World

28 August 2015

At the initiative of Kazakhstan, 29 August was declared as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests by the UN’s General Assembly in 2009. The day aims to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear tests and calls for a total ban. The date marks both the first nuclear test conducted at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in 1949, as well as the site’s closure in 1991 by modern-day Kazakhstan.
Poisoned groundwater, cancer, leukaemia, radioactive fallout — these are among the poisonous legacies of nuclear testing. The best way to honour the victims of past tests is to prevent any in the future.

To mark this year’s International Day Against Nuclear Tests an exhibition of art related to nuclear testing and nuclear weapons by artists from Austria, China, Kazakhstan, and the United States was on display at the Vienna International Centre. It culminated in a formal event on the eve of the Day itself which was attended by a large number of representatives of the Vienna diplomatic community, NGOs and media. The Chinese Artists’ Association and the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the International Organizations in Vienna supported the exhibition and the event.
In his opening remarks Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo highlighted the ability of art to instil new momentum into the political discourse, so that an international ban of nuclear weapons tests might soon become a reality.

CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo

August 29 serves as reminder that banning nuclear testing remains unfinished business. […] I am convinced that art can help us build awareness for the CTBT in new ways. Art appeals to us personally; it touches us on an emotional and aesthetic level. It can open new doors and let us see issues in a new light.

In his statement delivered on behalf of the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan, Minister Counsellor Sergei Savelyev emphasised Kazakhstan’s continuing efforts in nuclear disarmament and in realizing the nuclear test ban. He remarked on the legacy of nuclear testing which continues to burden Kazakh communities to this date, and invited participants to support the ATOM project, a recent Kazakh-led global campaign to galvanise public support for the CTBT.

Sergei Savelyev, Minister Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan

HE Mr Jingye Cheng, Permanent Representative of China to the International Organizations in Vienna

The Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty is a milestone for mankind on their way towards building a world free of nuclear weapons. It is a major pillar of the international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation system, and plays an important role in promoting international peace and security. We are glad to see the Treaty is becoming more universal and its purpose and objective are broadly recognized and supported by the international community.

Exhibiting artists Xiaoyu Li from China and Clay Lipsky from the United States also participated in the event and shared their thoughts and motivation for engaging artistically with the topic of nuclear testing and nuclear weapons.

From left to right: Artist Clay Lipsky, CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo and artist Xiaoyu Li

The ultimate goal of art is to eulogize peace… artists around the globe will be able to enhance the awareness towards nuclear tests, to fight against anti-peace activity and to push forward the elimination of nuclear tests.
Thanks to organizations like this, something is being done [about these global issues] and I am happy to support such a cause.

The works of art on display showed a wide variety and diversity of experiences and of creative expression. Mediums ranged from Chinese calligraphy, to painting to photo collages. The difference in the tone and emphases of the artworks also demonstrated the freedom which art offers to engage with nuclear testing on a personal level. While some works were disquieting and emphasized the effects of nuclear tests, others were ironic and darkly satirical. Many looked hopefully towards a future free of nuclear weapons, conveying messages of peace. In one aspect they all seemed to agree: that banning nuclear tests and eliminating weapons should be an international priority.
The art on display had previously been shown in China and will now travel to New York to be shown on the margins of the CTBT Article XIV Conference at the end of September.
To International Day against Nuclear Tests overview page.

Click to view art catalogue (PDF).