installation view of Fractured Landscapes at the Hollywood Arts and Culture Center, 2021
For this exhibition I was thinking a lot about claim staking—from the literal claiming of minerals buried in the earth to the acquisition of land on its surface, and beyond. Both of these leave visible scars, testaments to having irrevocably crossed a threshold. The development of nuclear arms during the Cold War, and the race to get to the moon—which was both a cover for the former and public-facing space theater—provides a historical context and a very clear and present cautionary reminder. Since the first atomic weapon was detonated at the Trinity test site in New Mexico, USA on July 16, 1945 we have been on an existential precipice of our own creation.
There is also a less tangible, largely invisible force related to all this which has to do with the psychic imprint and cultural memory left in the wake of weapons development and testing, along with the collateral human toll and environmental pollution. This era is conveyed with patriotic and pop images—from Western and sci-fi cinema to things like Uranium boom-town advertisements and Las Vegas atomic cocktail parties. Although the real spectacle of mushroom clouds and rocket launches are easily remembered, the real effects of developing this otherworldly technology are not—even though the particles fused, split and forged in the process can be detected in virtually every person and living thing on Earth. Uranium mines that continue to leach radioactive contaminants, test sites with dark histories and nuclear waste storage facilities the world don’t seem to reach our psyche and visual language as readily. The first image of the Earth from space, snapped on 35mm from a V-2 missile launched from New Mexico, and especially its successor “The Blue Marble” taken by the Apollo 17 crew on their way to the moon years later changed us forever. Perhaps ironically it gave us pause, sparked the environmental movement and a sense of unity as one world. Satellite technology—also born of the Space Race—has now allowed companies like Google to image every inch of the Earth’s surface, including restricted military sites. Who owns the images of our history? Civilians are not allowed to own moon rock, but countries vie for control of the space between it and the Earth. And tech billionaires have designs on owning swaths of other planets. I am trying to re-configure, unearth and excavate the imaging of this history so we might see more clearly what belies the imaginary, using the very resources born of it.