all images copyright smudge studio 2009

Last weekend we attended the bi-annual open house at the Trinity site. We arrived one day after visiting the Dispersal/Return exhibition at the UNM Art Museum and encountered an entirely different pedagogy of reading the land, its uses and human traces. Unlike previous experiences at nuclear sites throughout Nevada and New Mexico, we were not alone during our time at the Trinity site. Saturday we were surrounded by hundreds of other visitors. While other sites of nuclear incident in the United States seem virtually unmarked and forgotten, Trinity is widely remembered. The parking lot was filled with cars and tour buses with license plates spanning the continent. While other nuclear (under)ground zeroes are accessible to anyone, anytime, Trinity is nested within the White Sand Missile Testing Range and only accessible twice a year on specific days and hours. Photography was prohibited anywhere but near ground zero.

Food was served, speakers and tours were given, demonstrations of the radioactivity of Trinitite were offered, and a mock Fat Man atom bomb was trucked in for the occasion. A photographic exhibition of the history of the Manhattan Project and the Trinity site facilities was installed along hundreds of feet of the fence that surrounds ground zero and bears signs warning: "Caution: Radioactive Materials."

We found it difficult to locate a space and time to step back from the crowds and cameras. The implied pedagogy of the prescribed activities and temporary built environment made it impossible to experience a moment of personal or group reflection, or to consider or even to fully take-in the surrounding landscape while standing there, on the very ground of a most monumental pivot point in human and geologic history.

If the pedagogical address of the Land Arts of the American West program pivots on opportunities to creatively respond to where you are, the pedagogical address of the Trinity open house turns its visitors in the opposite direction: away from responding in any sort of non-habitual way to the abiding reality of where they are.

1 comment:

  1. Part of where you are is who else is there, and why.


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