I am in the studio, finding a creative work flow, and engaging some of my material (drawings, prints, photos) in different ways. In describing these experiments to a friend, she said they sounded meditative. I love this insight. She offered thoughts on documentation, documentation of performance, and animation. After our talk, I am inspired to continue the experiments, now with greater emphasis on time structure and meaning. Currently, these are shot without much thought to duration and pacing (though there were clearly ‘seasons’ to nuclear testing, periods of intense activity and then of pause). I would like to be more sensitive to this in my project.
I don’t know how these experiments will exactly influence my project yet, but I feel it is important to try some new things in my studio, especially as I test ideas that relate to these questions: What lies at the core of successful interaction? Is the process of mapping and dismantling a reflective practice? How do I create the conditions for this, for myself and for others?
The web-based archive of ‘The Evolution of Silence’ will officially launch on September 1, 2013. I have made progress this week and am now sharing the BETA site more widely for feedback. Over the next two months, I will be incorporating more of my research material, writing, and art (solar prints, animations, and coaxial cable drawings, etc.), testing programming and design ideas on my local file, and updating the BETA versions regularly for your feedback.
Be sure to empty your browser cache each time to view the changes. Currently the site works well in Safari and Firefox.
Instructions for emptying your cache in
File > Develop > Empty Caches
These last several weeks have been dedicated to setting up summer opportunities and seeking funding. In May, the semester ends and I can concentrate again on my studio work, exhibition proposal, and more grant applications.
I have recently added a scale to the web-based archive, and have been working behind the scenes with the code to include an introductory statement, and to solve a few problems. Some of those tests and explorations are not yet live. If you are interested in checking out progress on the website (The Evolution of Silence), here is the link.
I am happy about my current lineup of accepted projects/opportunities, and hope to take part in all. It depends on whether I receive funding for travel.
DesignInquiry Station, Vinalhaven, ME
July 2013 or August 2013
Open Air Printers Studio, Goldwell Residency
Rhyolite and Las Vegas, NV
Praxis and Poetics, Research Through Design Conference and Exhibition
Northumbria University/Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Newcastle upon Tyne/Gateshead, UK
I finished fixing the coordinates last week, and now the images tile correctly to form a view of every single detonation in Yucca Flat. It is intentional that it is still fragmented, in order to make visually clear that in those areas of the valley no nuclear detonation occurred. These gaps in information are views through the accumulated image, and lead to more and more complex layering of image, text, video. My goals with these layers are to explore the valley over time, convey dynamics and scale, present the ruins of testing, and share documentation of the impact on people’s lives and the environment. At the moment, photographs from the Desert Wildlife Range and the surrounding areas of the Nevada Test Site are visible.
My plans for Part One (the web-based part):
1. Create a scale that shows proportion and relates the images of detonations to geography.
2. Create more complex and transforming soundscapes.
3. Connect sounds to each detonation that convey their yield or detonation type, or some other attribute.
4. Explore CSS animations to convey yield of detonation.
5. Create more drawings and expressive scans to incorporate as hover captions to detonation images.
6. Create captions that load dynamically for the lightbox images.
7. Animate vector drawings to convey impact and yield of detonation.
8. Create a toggle option to view the project organized by time continuum or by location (currently it is a combination: the atmospheric tests are organized by time and the underground tests by location).
9. Create a text list of every detonation as a way to emphasize the naming of tests and to help viewers locate detonations in the tiling.
10. Create search function so that a viewer’s entry point could be a date, or a name, or an Area of the valley. Currently one travels from most northern part of the valley and heads South.
11. Create a system for showing how the viewer is navigating North, South, East, West.
12. Incorporate other archival research:
USGS photographs of detonation sites (before and after)
images of atmospheric tests from the National Archives
images of mannequins being dressed and set in houses
images of mannequins from the JC Penney advertisement (before and after)
images newspaper articles on the mannequins and other tests
images of houses, cars, furniture, food items, roof tiles, paint samples, animals tested
transcript (or recordings): for example of Baneberry trial
images of protests
images of ephemera and printed material
transcripts of oral histories
notes from two Nevada Test Site tours
13. Create a participatory interface in which viewers can submit their own interpretations or repsonses to form a layer on the site.
Part Two, as you may remember from earlier introductory posts, is to extend the website into an exhibition. I am hoping to have more time soon to design a proposal and to research ways to translate interactivity for the web into an interactive physical environment.
The Emily Carr University of Art and Design has archived the ‘Remaking Research’ symposium online. Here is the link to video documentation of presentations made in ‘Featured Research Projects’ under the theme ‘The Political Economies of Research’ on Friday, November 2, 2012. My presentation is third.
More stills from my presentation. My map of Yucca Flat in detail:
I love to talk about the research, the data I gathered, and the role my Excel sheet plays in the programming and design. I always show images of it.
Drawing is often a way to get to know something, and it lives on in my web-based project:
My vision for the Web: spatial, simultaneous, exploratory.
It’s especially moments like these when I wish I could afford to hire a studio assistant. After hours of mapping Yucca Flat last fall, I realized in proofing details in my code, that some of the coordinates for the map are wrong, and that the web is not translating parts of it correctly. It’s difficult to pinpoint where the mistakes are (with so many images tiled upon another), so I have no other option but to go through each detonation again. I will copy the ‘x’ and ‘y’ coordinates again for each: from my master map in Illustrator into my database in Excel (the file that drives the web map). This is a time-consuming task and, as a result, my other studio plans come to a halt. The map is one of the dominant visual features to the archive and it must be accurate. Starting today, let’s see how long this takes me.
My map in Illustrator (Area 2 and 10 in view):
The web version where you can see some detonations are not tiling correctly:
All Areas highlighted in Illustrator:
The database in Excel, with columns for x and y coordinates isolated:
In Las Vegas I found photos of the mannequins being dressed and on display at the J.C. Penney store before the March 17, 1953 detonation.
Las Vegas Review Journal, March 6, 1953.
Las Vegas Sun, March 7, 1953.
Los Angeles Examiner, March 10, 1953
Las Vegas Review Journal, March 1953
Las Vegas Review Journal, March 7, 1953
Las Vegas Review Journal, March 8, 1953
I found photos of the mannequins sitting in a group on chairs, being photographed outside in a Las Vegas neighborhood. I believe the photo was taken at Third and Carson Streets. James (Eure) could decipher ‘Third Street’ on the street sign in the first photo. Crystal (Van Dee) was able to confirm the street sign names as ‘Third and Carson’ with the help of a jeweler’s loupe.
Searching further through the collections at the Nevada State Museum, I found a news release announcing that the County court house would be used in preparation for the March 17 test (at that time the court house stood at Third and Carson).
Las Vegas Sun, March 9, 1953
The group photo outside is similar to one I found at the National Archives:
I found newspaper accounts that the mannequins had been removed from Yucca Flat and brought back to Las Vegas after the March 17, 1953 detonation. In this photo they are gathered again after the test, now damaged. They seem to be at the same site as in the earlier photo shoot (Third and Carson), but without a view of the houses across the street I can’t be certain.
It’s possible that this site (Third and Carson) is the setting of the J.C. Penney advertisement photo shoot. The double-page advertisement of ‘before’ and ‘after’ states of the mannequins was published in the Las Vegas Review Journal on April 3, 1953.
I found another J.C. Penney advertisement from early March 1953 featuring the mannequins in their ‘before’ state only in the Las Vegas Review Journal. These are the same ‘before’ shots used later in the April 3 comparison.
I did not find any pictures or accounts of the mannequins on public display at the J.C. Penney store after the detonation of March 17, 1953. For now, the question of the mannequins’ post-detonation display in Las Vegas (at J.C. Penney or elsewhere) remains unanswered.
However, I did find several newspaper accounts of the mannequins on public display in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles in early April 1953. The mannequins were on view for three days and staged in similar ways to how they were found after the detonation at Yucca Flat. The newspapers report: ‘Mannequins play second fiddle to F-84’ (The F-84 Thunderjet was in an adjacent display). The mannequins were being studied for radiation in Los Angeles. I wonder whether the Civil Defense officials cancelled their plans for a nationwide tour of the mannequins after the exhibition in Los Angeles.
There are three main threads to my archival research. I am searching for:
(1) any images or textual accounts of the L.A. Darling Co. Mannequins, information on their public display at the downtown J.C. Penney store in Las Vegas and the tour they allegedly made of other cities, confirmation that they were displayed both before and after the March 17, 1953 ‘Annie’ Test, and any leads to their current whereabouts;
(2) newspaper accounts of nuclear testing at Yucca Flat of the Nevada Test Site, any form of visual or textual documentation that provides a supplementary view to that of the Department of Energy, as well as images and films of atmospheric and underground testing activity, subsidence craters, cables, towers, vehicles, structures, and other ruins of testing experiments; and
(3) an analysis of the effects of nuclear testing on people, environment, politics and culture, documentation and records on (for example) the Baneberry venting case, protests at the NTS, and designed exhibits and publications.
Over the course of this project, I have searched the microfilm, manuscript, photo, film, map, book, and military collections of the Library of Congress, the Mercury Core Library and Data Center, the USGS Central Region Library, and the National Archives. This past December in Las Vegas, I spent several days in the archives and libraries of the Cahlan Research Library of the Nevada State Museum, the University of Nevada Las Vegas Special Collections, and the Nuclear Testing Archive. As a result of these hours spent, combing through personal collections, publications, ephemera, newspaper clippings, microfilm, photos, and film reels, I have hundreds of images and notes to add to my findings. This material will give further dimension to the project. In the next several weeks I will be working to interpret these discoveries and incorporate them into the archive and into my exhibition proposal.
I want to thank the people I met in Las Vegas who helped me with my research: Crystal R. Van Dee, Curator of Manuscripts at the Cahlan Research Library Karen Green, Curator at the National Atomic Testing Museum Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator, Historian at the Las Vegas News Bureau Archive Dan Garrison, Producer at Joshua Tree Productions Inc. Jennifer Cornthwaite, Director of the Emergency Arts Center Su Kim Chung, Manuscripts Librarian at UNLV Special Collections Kelli Luchs, Photograph Archivist at UNLV Special Collections Delores Brownlee, Library Technician at UNLV Special Collections Thomas Sommer, University and Technical Services Archivist at UNLV Special Collections and Dennis McBride, Director of the Nevada State Museum.
Thanks to James Eure for his assistance.
A page out of a scrapbook of clippings regarding Civil Defense, Patricia Lee Collection, Cahlan Research Library.
Bladder Sage (Salazaria mexicana)
We made several visits to the Springs Preserve and Nevada State Museum, which are situated in the same area, on beautiful and fittingly-named Valley View Boulevard. Food at the Springs Café is prepared by the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas and we regularly ate there before conducting research at the Cahlan Research Library (within the Nevada State Museum). I would have loved to have had more time for hiking in the Springs Preserve. The short walk we made provided a useful introduction to some plants and has helped me identify some desert flora. I plan to incorporate more of this kind of information into my project, as well as research that I have found on the effects of nuclear testing on the environment.
With about twenty-five other visitors, I rode out to the Nevada Test Site on Thursday, December 13. (The Nevada Test Site now goes by the name: Nevada National Security Site.) Our full-day tour was led by Ernie Williams, a former Atomic Energy Commission employee and, at the age of 82, a participant and witness to most U.S. nuclear testing activity.
No pictures, no recording, no cellphones, no video allowed. While we drove around I noted the cable lines strewn about, the few subsidence craters I could see out the window, towers and other testing equipment that stands in ruin, the houses from the 1950s that, situated furthest from ground zero, remain as empty shells, and other evidence of experiments conducted.
We were allowed off the bus at two spots within the site: in Frenchman Flat to stand underneath a warped steel bridge (damaged by the force of an early atmospheric nuclear test), and, later that afternoon in northern Yucca Flat, where we stood at the dramatic edge to Sedan Crater. It was a rainy and snowy day with little visibility. I was a little sad to have missed the view of mountains that surround the valley. From my 2008 visit I remember the feeling of vastness in the valley, and the feeling like we were inside a place. While mountains encircle Yucca Flat and there is a natural feeling of enclosure, the fact that it is a highly restricted area probably contributes to that impression.
(Images courtesy of the University of Nevada Las Vegas Special Collections, DOE Collection.)