Version 1.

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The Evolution of Silence version 1—www.evolution-of-silence.net

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!

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I invite you to explore:

www.evolution-of-silence.net

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

Presenting at ‘Praxis and Poetics’ at the BALTIC in Gateshead, UK.

Presentation at 'Praxis and Poetics: Research Through Design,' September 4, 2013
Rachele Riley presenting ‘The Evolution of Silence’ at ‘Praxis and Poetics’ at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, UK on September 4, 2013. Photo by Dr Joyce Yee.

I traveled to England on September 2 to participate in the conference ‘Praxis and Poetics: Research Through Design.’ The conference was held at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, UK, just over the Millennium Bridge and across the river from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a beautiful university city with a mix of old and new architecture, which I was able to explore one afternoon on foot. I am so happy that I was able to attend this event and thrilled to present and exhibit ‘The Evolution of Silence’ in its newly re-coded format. It was a celebratory week for me and wonderful to share the archive beyond the U.S.

Millennium Bridge and the BALTIC.
Millennium Bridge and the BALTIC.

Here is a post from Vicky Teinaki who blogged about the conference:

“Rachele Riley went beyond whether the truth is out there to the history we forget in ‘The Evolution of Silence.’ Her work is investigating the decades of nuclear testing that went on in the Nevada desert, and through it the changing opinions of nuclear testing…”

Read the full post here.

Link to ‘The Evolution of Silence.’

Installation detail of 'The Evolution of Silence' at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. ©Rachele Riley, 2013
Detail of ‘The Evolution of Silence’ at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. ©Rachele Riley, 2013

Thank you to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and to my family for travel support, to Danniel Gaidula for revamping the site, and to everyone who generously contributed to my project via USA Projects. The archive looked amazing on the high resolution monitor and received incredible response. There are several conversation threads that linger in my mind; I am now finding time to probe them. Several people expressed an interest in contributing to the archive through its (soon-to-be-developed) participatory layer. It was inspiring to meet designers (mainly from Asia, Europe, and Australia) who are engaged in diverse research and are investigating new modes of delivery. It was an awe-tastic week.

Update on Fundraiser at USA Projects.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to my USA Projects fundraiser over the last two days! The USA Projects Open Match Fund matched $250 of your contributions. Please continue to share the link. Thank you!

http://www.usaprojects.org/project/the_evolution_of_silence

All donations are tax-deductible and the fundraising model is ‘all or nothing.’ If you have not yet made a donation, please know that your contributions will make a difference and will mean a lot to me. I have a few art perks to offer for donations at $50 or $100 (at the Haymaker or Noggin levels—named after denotations, of course!).

Please consider making a contribution today and share the link with others!

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Pahranagat Valley, NV, first research trip in 2008.

In related news: the Web-based archive will launch in 10 days! I will be presenting it in conjunction with ‘Praxis and Poetics’ at the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, September 3–5. This week my focus is to develop the section of the website that presents and interprets the LA Darling Co Mannequins. As you saw in my USA Projects video, I have a lot of research material to incorporate!

Scans of mannequins and tests. Images courtesy of the National Archives.
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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.

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

Firefox
Tools > Clear Recent History > Cache

BETA Version 1.2

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I am working towards my September 1 launch date. BETA 1.2 is up. I am now taking advantage of the interval pause between the background images (as they fade in and out of one another behind the tiling of the valley) to evoke the sight and trace of atmospheric tests.

Here is the background image in the body of the HTML (behind all the other background images that show the ground level of the landscape). Still fine tuning the timing of those interval pauses.

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From my field notes (2008):

go or no go
goggles
braced for heavy wave of motion
suddenly a great ball of light
ball of orange
a long mass of blue
swirling clouds of desert dust and sand
wonderfully western

Hovering over Annie Test:
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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.

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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
Safari:
File > Develop > Empty Caches

Firefox:
Tools > Clear Recent History > Cache

Plans for Part One.

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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.
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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.

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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):
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The web version where you can see some detonations are not tiling correctly:
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All Areas highlighted in Illustrator:
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The database in Excel, with columns for x and y coordinates isolated:
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Back to web map:
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Update on the ‘Annie’ test mannequins.

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.
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Las Vegas Sun, March 7, 1953.
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Los Angeles Examiner, March 10, 1953
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Las Vegas Review Journal, March 1953
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Las Vegas Review Journal, March 7, 1953
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Las Vegas Review Journal, March 8, 1953
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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.

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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).
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Las Vegas Sun, March 9, 1953
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The group photo outside is similar to one I found at the National Archives:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Los Angeles Examiner, April 1, 1953 Sec 1–3.
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Albuquerque Tribune, April 1, 1953
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Las Vegas Review Journal, April 1, 1953
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Los Angeles Mirror, April 1, 1953
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Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1953.
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Las Vegas Review Journal, April 1, 1953.
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