Mapping every detonation in Yucca Flat.

This week I focused on my map. I am tiling the individual images of each detonation to form one view of Yucca Flat valley. Using the USGS map as a guide in identifying the craters, I determine the relative (x,y) positions for each image. I enter that information into my dataset. The web-based archive is designed to pull dynamically from that data file. The map will build itself as it loads online and allow the viewer to interact with each detonation separately.

USGS map used (detail shown below): Dennis N. Grasso. “Geologic Surface Effects of Underground Nuclear Testing, Yucca Flat, Nevada Test Site, Nevada.” United States Geological Survey. 2000.

The full map in progress. Once I finish the straightforward aspect of this mapping, I can explore ways to include the one hundred detonations that occurred above ground in Yucca Flat. For these atmospheric tests, no bore holes or surface effects exist, and also no exact coordinates in the Department of Energy data.

Identifying images for a GeoEye Foundation Imagery Grant.

I applied for a GeoEye Foundation Imagery Grant last month. The Foundation ‘provides satellite imagery grants to support research projects at the university level and within non-governmental organizations.’ ( The committee has expressed interest in my research and has asked me to revise my list of images. (I had requested more than they normally award.) I am able to submit a request for a maximum of seven images. It was much harder than I thought it would be to choose which images will work best for my project and for all the ways I hope to extend it. After narrowing down the original list to about eleven, I tiled the individual images to see which would best together. I am requesting the two sets below, a total of seven images.

I roughly tiled the images on my door ‘wall’ as well.

Several of the images I was considering, layered.

Mannequins, selected sun prints.

Here are a few of the sun prints that I made last week. There is one print for each of the fifty L.A. Darling Co. mannequins used in the March 17, 1953 Annie Test at Yucca Flat. I am investigating ways to represent damage, disappearance, shadow, and trace, as well as a feeling of irradiation.

Mannequin sun prints, the process shots.

The first group of cut-outs in the sunshine. Some prints are scenarios of characters and others are single silhouettes. The compositions are created by overlapping the shapes, shifting their orientation to the light, positioning them at different degrees of contact to the paper, and making multiple exposures.

sun prints process 4

The results once rinsed in water. The prints are double-sided.

sun prints process 6

Researching the L.A. Darling Co. Mannequins.

The project also reveals and memorializes the role that display mannequins played in the Civil Defense program. Representing human subjects, they experienced the force of nuclear explosions in the 1950s. I have been researching their involvement and trying to determine their whereabouts. Their story offers compelling historical perspective on the cultural view of the atomic bomb. The mannequins offer a formal counterpoint to the abstraction of the craters and point to the human cost of war. (Image courtesy of the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation.)

Excerpts from a J.C. Penney advertisement in the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper, April 1953. (Image courtesy of the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation.)

(Image courtesy of the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation.)

The double page spread newspaper advertisement for J.C. Penney and the L.A. Darling Co. was published in the Las Vegas Review Journal, April 17, 1953. (Image courtesy of the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation.)


I am making sun prints of the fifty mannequins who participated in the March 17, 1953 Annie Test at the Nevada Test Site. Their silhouette forms are taken from the J.C. Penney advertisement. This is an early test. It has been very cloudy in Philadelphia this week, hopefully I can make the prints soon.

Mapping for the web-based archive, the beginning.

This is a screen shot of the web-based archive in which the detonations are organized initially by time (grid view). It presents the sites as fragments of a landscape.

I am working to create an alternate view which will present a relational view of the detonation sites. Below is a sketch from my storyboard.

This is a screen shot from the mapping in progress. I am mapping my individual images to a USGS map of Yucca Flat.

This is my data. All layers of information are in one excel sheet. The website pulls dynamically from this data file.

These next few images give you a sense of my process for collecting the individual photos of each detonation site from Google Earth. I plotted the coordinates for each explosion and captured screen shots at an elevation of 700 km.

I created this concept map for the archive to show the relationship of various layers and to use when discussing the design and development.

This diagram communicates the structure and movement of the archive organized by time (grid view). Used primarily in discussion with programmer, Danniel Gaidula.

An initial concept map for an early prototype, which, with Danniel Gaidula’s help, I have now completely re-coded.

An early mind map for the project.

One of several photographs of the environment that I shot in May 2008 when I traveled to the site and around its periphery. These are used in the website to present a horizon view of the valley, in contrast to the aerial views.

I tiled together hundreds of screen shots from Google Maps’ satellite view to form a complete aerial view of the valley. This was made after my trip in 2008.

I made a relief mapping of the craters. It is a test for collograph relief printing.

An Introduction to The Evolution of Silence.

An exploration of memory and destruction, ‘The Evolution of Silence’ is a multi-dimensional project that encompasses drawing, interactive design, mapping, printmaking, and installation. It is a creative investigation into the dramatic transformation of the Yucca Flat valley of the Nevada Test Site (Nevada National Security Site)—the site of experimental, post-World War II nuclear detonations.

I am creating a web-based archive, installation, and publication that present an exploration of a restricted landscape, and a visual mapping and interpretation of its destruction. ‘The Evolution of Silence’ allows one to bypass government boundaries and control of the area, making it possible for any individual to experience a cold war’s aftermath and silence.

The project gives form and expression to the data that I have gathered and organized, and is unique to other existing documentation of the Nevada Test Site in that it preserves an individual view of every nuclear detonation that occurred in Yucca Flat valley (828 nuclear explosions in total). The valley’s pockmarked surface of sink-hole craters is simultaneously beautiful and horrific. Considering the toll on the environment and the cost to human life, the valley is an important symbol of the impact of war.

I have been working on ‘The Evolution of Silence’ for a few years. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte funded my initial field research in 2008 (thank you), and since then, I have been working to design and develop an experience of a place of conflict for others. Thanks to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, I have a sabbatical for the Fall 2012 semester and am going to be finishing Part 1 of the project: a web-based archive that presents multiple perspectives and experiences of the destruction. Part 2 will take place in 2013, as I prepare for the project’s extension and arrange for its public exhibition.



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