Christian Langenskiöld’s exhibition Shelter depicts a fallout shelter in Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland island. The artist had the opportunity to visit the shelter under the guidance of its caretaker. Langenskiöld sees the shelter as part of a human defence mechanism that makes the possibility of catastrophe and the volatility of life easier to deal with. The exhibition also includes an installation of equipment from the shelter.
The fallout shelter in Langenskiöld’s images was bored into the rock under the city in the early 1980’s during the Cold War and has been built to withstand a direct hit by a nuclear weapon. The space is designed to house 1500 people for an unspecified period of time. The shelter is filled with equipment imagined necessary when facing a disaster, and there is also a kitchen, an infirmary, a shower room, a large machine that cleans the air of radioactive particles and a sweet water pool. The idea behind the colorful environment is to stimulate the mind.
During his project Christian Langenskiöld pondered the need people have to hold on to the idea that something can be done when the unexpected and terrible happens. A fallout shelter is a place where we can go if the climate breaks, a reactor melts, a pandemic or nuclear war breaks out. Langenskiöld is of the opinion that the shelter’s main purpose is to have a “plan B” even though it seems the space would be quite impotent in a real emergency: “To protect ourselves from fear and anxiety we create fantasies that do not change our destructive patterns of behaviour but rather serve to convince us of one thing: everything will be alright.”