Sunday, 12 June 2011

James Acord (1944 – 2011)

James Acord was a sculptor who was the only private individual in the world with a license to own and handle radioactive materials.

His radioactive sculptures aimed to highlight nuclear issues such as long-term waste storage. Interestingly he was neither for or against the nuclear age, he just felt 'we should be dealing with it' and wanted to make the discussion of its issues more open and transparent.

He famously managed to gain his personal license after years of nagging the US department of energy and teaching himself nuclear science. He was so bloody thrilled when he was granted a license that he tattooed the license number across the back of his neck; a 'rock star' move that Brian Cox could only dream of.

A perpetual nag, later on in his career he persuaded the Physics department at Imperial College to allow him to become an artist in residence there; a role which came with a small nuclear reactor.

Although he was a sculptor with few sculptures, his work gives hope that with a lot of hard work and perseverance artists can break into worlds and institutional corridors that seem inhospitable.

James Acord committed suicide earlier this year. He had dreams of building a nuclear Stonehenge.

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