Version 1.

The Evolution of Silence version 1—

The Hatchfund fundraiser ended in October, and thanks to all my wonderful supporters, I raised $3,827 towards my project!

Part of the funding has already covered the costs of working with web developer, Danniel Gaidula. We have completely revamped and refined the web-based archive. This is a significant programming achievement! ‘The Evolution of Silence’ requires that over 900 individual images be processed at once (to form the aerial tiling of the landscape), and as other image, video, and audio layers are revealed it can become very intense for any system. We developed a unique approach to the design and coding, and I am happy to say that is now live and working!


I invite you to explore:

*Refresh your browser cache if you have visited before.
*Works in Chrome (fastest), Safari, Firefox and IE 10. Requires a modern browser.

Adding USGS ‘Before’ and ‘After’ Shots.

I added 296 images to my Web-based archive last week. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ test shots (or ‘pre’ and ‘post’ shots) that I acquired via Freedom of Information Act Request from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Nuclear Security Administration, Nevada Site Office are now included in the project.


If you are visiting the project site, be sure to ’empty your cache’ and ‘refresh.’
Instructions again:
File > Develop > Empty Caches

Tools > Clear Recent History > Cache

Interacting with Pages, Experiments.

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.

Interacting with Pages (First 199 nuclear detonations at Yucca Flat), Experiment 4
Interacting with Pages, Experiment 3

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?

BETA Version 1.1.

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

Tools > Clear Recent History > Cache

Plans for Part One.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.33.02 AM
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.
Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.31.32 AM
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.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.32.19 AM

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.

Proofing my map.

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):
Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 9.44.10 PM

The web version where you can see some detonations are not tiling correctly:
Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 6.16.09 PM

All Areas highlighted in Illustrator:
Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 10.32.10 PM
Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 10.58.47 PM

The database in Excel, with columns for x and y coordinates isolated:
Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 10.08.28 AM

Back to web map:
Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 5.05.15 PM

Aerial photographs acquired from the USGS, the Freedom of Information Act.

In June 2011, I discovered that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mercury Core Library and Data Center in Henderson, NV stores ‘pre’ and ‘post’ detonation photographs of many nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site. I immediately inquired if I could have access to the photos of Yucca Flat for my project. After encountering resistance to my inquiry, I filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the National Nuclear Security Administration (in March 2012), and I am happy to say that it is finally successful. I received all the images in the mail recently: several dozens of black-and-white aerial shots that were scanned and burned to nine discs for me. I want to thank all the people at the USGS and at the NNSA Office of Public Affairs who worked to fulfill my request.

Here are a few examples:
(Images courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration, Nevada Site Office.)





Research at the National Archives, nuclear detonations and craters.

These images represent just a fraction of the photographs housed at the Archives. Documentation of nuclear testing activity is stored in multiple collections. I poured through the Records of the Department of Energy, the Records of the Defense Nuclear Agency, and the Records of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. I will be returning to also consult the Records of the Atomic Energy Commission and to scan a few hundred images for use in my project. I’d like to thank researcher, Kevin Morrow, who generously made a few scans for me one day. Most researchers have brought a flatbed scanner or a tripod and SLR to the Archives. I made note of folders and images, and took quick shots with my phone. I will capture them properly when I return. (Images courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Notice the valley floor, no craters exist at the time of this early shot.

This is the March 17, 1953 Annie Test, the one in which the first round of mannequins played the role of human subjects.

Sedan Crater, Plowshare Program—excavation experiment, July 6, 1962.

“The Plowshare program, begun in 1958, sought to develop peaceful uses for nuclear explosives. The excavation tests, designed to demonstrate that nuclear devices could quickly and cheaply move massive amounts of earth in the digging of canals and harbors, were conducted at the test site. Most spectacular was the 1962 Sedan test. Buried 635 feet below ground…the 104-kiloton blast lifted a huge dome of earth 290 feet in the air, moved 6.5 million cubic yards of earth and rock, and left a crater 1,200 feet across and 320 feet deep.

Sedan also sent a cloud of radioactivity off in the direction of Salt Lake City, creating a brief scare when radioactive iodine-131 turned up in the local milk supply. Inability to totally contain the radioactivity coupled with disappointing results eventually signaled the death knell of the program in the mid-1970’s.”
(Fehner, Terrence R. and Gosling, F.G. Origins of the Nevada Test Site. United States Department of Energy. December 2000. pp.84.)

Notice the man standing at the bottom of the crater. This gives a sense of scale (bottom left corner of photo).

Sedan Crater

A mapping of all underground detonations in Yucca Flat.

I finally finished mapping the sites of underground nuclear tests (still to map are the areas in which atmospheric testing took place). All underground nuclear explosions that took place in Yucca Flat are represented in this map. Individual images for each explosion at the exact site of their detonation are tiled together in (what became for me) a giant jigsaw puzzle, to form one aerial view of the valley.

Now in geographic relationship to one another, the hundreds of small images come together to give a better sense of scale and convey the character of the valley. The web-based archive will interpret their ‘x’ and ‘y’ position coordinates (taken from my finished tiled map). The archive dynamically builds the map again in real time online. Below are screen shots of the archive running from my local file. It was worth the time it took do the map.