The more I search for details on the mannequins the more the realities begin to blur. Coordinated operations, in which mannequins were carefully dressed and typical social and domestic scenes were staged, began as isolated test scenarios at the Nevada Test Site in 1953. Extending beyond the boundaries of the NTS across the nation, their story culminates in Operation Alert, in which responses to nuclear attack were simulated by real individuals. Here are few images of mannequins and real people:
I have been doing research at the National Archives facility in College Park, MD for the last three days. I looked at hundreds of archival documents: photographs, moving pictures, slides, and textual records that relate to nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site, the Department of Energy, and the Federal Civil Defense Administration. In particular I am searching for any image of the L.A. Darling Co. Mannequins used in the early tests of the 1950’s and documentation of the activities that were carried out in preparation for measuring and assessing the effects of nuclear weapons. I have yet to find evidence of the nationwide tour that the mannequins are supposed to have taken after withstanding the nuclear blast of March 17, 1953.
I requested over 35 boxes of archival records at the Archives and was able to capture reference shots of the material. I will be returning to the Archives to scan the most important findings. Special thanks to my research assistant, Millie Riley.
Here are few images of mannequins used in the 1953 Annie Test that were new to me:
(Images courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Before the test, the mannequins are gathered for a photo shoot:
I will be posting a few installments of examples from my visit: more images of mannequins (1953/1955), early views of Yucca Flat valley, documentation of detonations, and information on the traveling exhibit ‘Pathway to Peace.’
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.
The results once rinsed in water. The prints are double-sided.
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.
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.