Atomic Suite

Art Gallery of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta
20 April - 25 August, 2012

[video projection | photographic installation]

Atomic Suite is a multi-focal exhibition that reflects on the historical rupture marked by the use of the earliest atomic weapons.

In the summer of 2010 Mary Kavanagh worked as an artist in residence at The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Wendover, Utah. This residency is dedicated to the study of the Anthropic landscape—land directly affected by the intervention of human occupation. The city of Wendover straddles the Utah/Nevada border, and is divided between Mountain and Pacific Time Zones; it is a gambling boomtown with a mix of Mormon, Anglo and Hispanic populations. The city is also dominated by the partially abandoned World War Two Wendover Airfield, which is notable as the training base of the 509th Composite Group that dropped atomic bombs on Japan at the conclusion of the war. The Enola Gay and Boxcar, the B-29 bombers used in the mission, were housed in a large hangar that today stands as a shrine to atomic history. Combat training by various U.S. military divisions continues on the base to this day.

The town of Wendover is located in the Great Basin Desert defined by gleaming white salt flats and alkali mud. It is the home to extractive mining operations, toxic waste disposal, as well as the Bonneville Salt Flats International Raceway, site of the world's fastest land-speed records. As she immersed herself in this environment for a period of two months, Kavanagh developed an extensive photographic archive, which resulted in Atomic Suite. She also collaborated with Butoh dancer, Techan Imai, to record a commissioned performance at Hopi, Arizona, on August 6, 2010, the 65th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

Responding to Wendover and surrounds, the images encompass a range of subject matter: historic airplane hangars, bunkers, bombing and shooting ranges, munitions igloos, craters, contemporary U.S. Marines in combat training for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ordnance disposal at the Utah Test and Training Range, mining, industry, and iconic Land Art such as Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels and Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty.

Double Monument: Wendover to Hiroshima

[giclee prints, 64"x32", 32"x32"]

Grave Markers: Wendover to Hiroshima

[giclee prints, 34"x14"]

Atomic Suite

[inkjet prints, 24.5"x18"]

Atomic Suite

[video (10 minutes)]