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Static Range by Himali Singh Soin

Static Range by Himali Singh Soin

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Self Published
Soft Cover
1st Edition of 700

During the height of the Cold War in 1965, the CIA collaborated with the Indian Intelligence Bureau to plant a nuclear-powered surveillance device to intercept radio signals from the Chinese nuclear missile testing in Lop Nur. The chosen location was Nanda Devi, the second highest mountain in India, and one which Himali Singh Soin grew up looking at from her home in the Himalayas. After the install expedition was abandoned because of a blizzard, the device (powered by 1900 grams of plutonium) was left to become part of the landscape. It has never been found. In 1978, Himali’s mountaineer father was part of a rare expedition which took photographs of the mountain, one of which was made into a postage stamp by the Indian Telegraph services.

This spy story is still pretty covert, especially in the current regime,” Himali explains. India’s prime minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the incident in 2018 in relation to potential contamination of the nearby Ganga river, but concrete details remain scarce, despite recent fears that radiation has contributed to local flash flooding. Himali has used this uncertainty as a springboard for static range, a speculative multi-disciplinary project for Back to Earth. Himali channels her artistic interests through a variety of imagined scenarios, both local to Nanda Devi and further afield. The 1978 photographs are still some of the only visual clues available, and suggest a complex afterlife. “If there was a nuclear leak, then there would be radiation in the (camera) film and in my father’s body,” Himali explains. “And as I wasn’t born yet, potentially in my body.”


This artist’s book is a new strand of Static Range, a multidisciplinary and multilimbed project that uses a real-life spy-story in the Indian Himalayas as a canvas for speculations and reflections about nuclear culture, porosity, leakages, toxicity and love, spiritual-scientific entanglements, environmental catastrophe, and post-nation states.

The book, Static Range, takes its inspiration from stamp booklets and flip books: it forms an analogue version of the eponymous animation in which the mountain, Nanda Devi, morphs in the nuclear sublime, radiant and blemished. Made with organic cellulose paper and entirely lickable, each page contains four perforated stamps. The book has a screen printed cover on cloth, and a wrapper containing an epistolary exchange between the
mountain and the nuclear powered spy device that is lodged inside it, as well as three newly commissioned texts. Necessarily, the only way to consume this book is to destroy it.

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