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Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta
2 March 2019 – 28 April 2019
Founders’ Gallery, University of Calgary, located at The Military Museums, Calgary, Alberta
27 September 2019 – 26 January 2020

Daughters of Uranium considers the nuclear era and the encoding of militarized conflict on the body. Derived from the chemical sciences, the term “daughters of uranium” refers to the decay chain of naturally occurring uranium (U-235 being the crucial element for sustaining a nuclear chain reaction) while evoking generations born into an uncertain future.

 

Referencing a century of increasingly catastrophic weapons of war and their environmental and psychological impact, Daughters of Uranium unfolds in chapters that weave personal and political narratives through inscription and collection: drawing, sculpture, assemblage, photography, and film. Cultural anthropologist, Peter C. van Wyck describes the exhibition as a territorial archive in which “the archive as site shifts towards the archive as practice,” and one that “calls into question temporal and topographical notions of scale and proximity.” Using materials that are literally radioactive such as glass coloured with uranium oxide, or trinitite samples - a mineral forged during the first atomic bomb blast, the work radically challenges notions of contamination and containment, invisibility, violence, exposure and evidence.

In her catalogue essay, “A Radioactive Domestic,” Jayne Wilkinson notes that Kavanagh structures the Nuclear as a totalizing concept rather than a specific event or period. By not relying on signifiers in broad circulation such as photographs of enduring mushroom clouds, “Kavanagh’s approach is unique in the visual records of the atomic era…. [her] work frames a critique of militarism and military aesthetics through encounter and touch in order to understand how war impacts the body through generational histories.”

 

Produced in conjunction with the exhibition, a publication features essays by Christina Cuthbertson, Lindsey Sharman, Jayne Wilkinson, and Peter C. van Wyck.

View monograph: Daughters of Uranium

DAUGHTERS OF URANIUM

MARY KAVANAGH   © 2023 Mary Kavanagh