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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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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The subject of my archival research, appreciating Las Vegas.

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.
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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.