CJ Chandler


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Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Vincent Bezuidenhout - Fail Deadly

Sep 25, 2019

Fail Deadly is a concept in nuclear military strategy that encourages deterrence by guaranteeing an immediate, automatic, and overwhelming response to an attack. The term fail-deadly was coined as a contrast to fail-safe’.


Fail Deadly is set against the history of South Africa’s clandestine nuclear weapons program during apartheid. In the 1970’s and 80’s South Africa built six atom bombs in complete secrecy. As the apartheid system crumbled the program was swiftly disbanded before the advent of democracy.


Incorporating strategies which include photojournalism, image appropriation, landscape and aerial photography as well as archival practises, I construct a narrative that allows me to reflect upon and re-contextualize this transitory piece of history.


The cornerstone of this project, entitled The Pelindaba Collection, consists of more than 900 pages of declassified documents from various sources, including The Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, The South African History Archive, as well as N.S.A., C.I.A. and internal government communications I obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Large sections within these documents have been redacted, which led to the creation of various photo based works including the Black Landscapes and Holepunch series. By using absence and omission I reflect on past and present censorship in South Africa and how the history of spaces are simultaneously the history of powers.

Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.

Criticality Facility

Oct 01, 2019 - Vincent Bezuidenhout

The image for my last post was taken in the remains of what was the criticality facility, used for conducting experiments to attain a crucial balance where each fission event releases a sufficient number of neutrons to sustain an ongoing series of reactions. I view the series Fail Deadly not just as examining this little known part of South African history, but also as a reflection on how the history of spaces is also the history of powers, and that this history, notwithstanding the failure of apartheid, have had a lasting effect on our moral as well as physical landscape.

She Watches Over

Sep 30, 2019 - Vincent Bezuidenhout

She Watches Over was made in collaboration with South African artist Chad Rossouw.


On 22 September 1979, at 00:53 Universal Time, US satellite Vela 6911 recorded a distinctive double flash in an area where the South Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa. Designed to look for clandestine atmospheric nuclear tests, and already operational for more than 10 years, Vela’s gamma-ray and x-ray detectors, along with its two Bhangmeters, indicated a nuclear explosion of approximately 3 kilotons.


Subsequent investigations by various agencies into the incident came to contradictory conclusions ranging from a meteorite hitting the satellite to other natural phenomena, but the prime suspect has always been a joint South African-Israeli nuclear test.


Documents from these investigations are either classified or heavily redacted.


She watches over consists of a life sized replica of the Vela satellite. This sculpture is accompanied by an enlarged copy of an actual redacted document. Through simplicity of form, absence and the geometry of aerospace engineering, this work examines the complex interaction between secrecy, government and fear which intersected with South Africa’s own history of aggressive Nationalism and modernist aspirations.

An Interview with Mungo Poore

Sep 29, 2019 - Vincent Bezuidenhout

An interview with Mungo Poore is an image of the only known photograph in existence of the nuclear warheads produced by the apartheid regime in South Africa. I met with journalist Mungo Poore who took this photograph by walking into the unguarded facility during its dismantling.

The warheads where designed to be transported by the Israeli Jericho long-range ballistic missile system.


Original image by Mungo Poore (copyright).

Black Landscapes

Sep 28, 2019 - Vincent Bezuidenhout

The Black Landscape series was inspired by my collection of documents on South Africa’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, which combined, culminated in the Pelindaba Collection discussed in my first post. In trying to learn more about this part of South African history I was frustrated with the heavily redacted content, with black blocks often covering entire pages. At the same time I was also busy traveling to various locations in Southern Africa and making landscape photographs where weapons facilities use to exist.

These works where made using an inkjet printing technique I developed of printing a layer of black over a landscape image. The technique renders a redacted landscape, in negative, the detail of which can only be seen at a certain angle.


Sep 27, 2019 - Vincent Bezuidenhout

As part of the project Fail Deadly, the Holepunch series consists of images I made at various locations in South Africa which previously functioned as secret nuclear weapons facilities. As the apartheid regime started to crumble they disbanded the entire program including all warheads, missiles and facilities before the advent of democracy. These images are made by punching a square hole in each negative before making the print.

The Pelindaba Collection

Sep 26, 2019 - Vincent Bezuidenhout

The Pelindaba Collection* is at the centre of my project Fail Deadly, concerning South Africa’s clandestine nuclear weapons program during apartheid. The collection consists of more than 900 pages of declassified, photocopied documents I collected from sources including, The Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, The South African History Archive, as well as N.S.A., C.I.A. and internal government communications I obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The collection is the largest archive in existence concerning the apartheid regimes WMD program. In response to the most critical information being redacted, I created various photo based works including the Black Landscapes and Holepunch series which I will discuss in subsequent posts.


The collection in its entirety has been exhibited in various iterations such as a vertical stack of documents on a plinth and pinned to a wall. In 2018 I created an installation in an old pharmaceutical factory in Brooklyn with an office printer laboriously printing page after page of the collection which ranges from minutes of a meeting between defense ministers from apartheid South Africa and Israel to technical specifications for uranium enrichment.


* Pelindaba is the name of the area in South Africa where these secret facilities were built in the 1970’s. The word is derived from the Zulu words pelile meaning “finished” and indaba meaning “discussion”.