Open Site Navigation
From group exhibition: Living Utopia and Disaster: 2007 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art
Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
23 June - 9 September 2007
Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Alberta
26 October 2007 - 6 January 2008
6-channel video installation
Collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts

Travel Notes 27.05.06: White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico presents a sequence of wall-recessed video screens, each with images of weekend tourists engaged in leisure activities at White Sands National Park, directly adjacent to an active military range. In this work, landscape, tourism, and atomic history converge.

Established during World War Two, White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is a military range that supports missile development, tactical and weapons testing programs for the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. In 1945 as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, the world's first atomic bomb detonation took place on the range, at what is now called "Trinity Site," a small parcel of land open to the public two days each year.

WSMR is located in the Tularosa Basin of south-central New Mexico, between the Organ Mountains and the Sacramento Mountains. The "white sands" are gypsum crystals that have leached and blown over millennia from the surrounding mountains. A distinctive ecology survives in this "desert within a desert" and visitors explore the dramatic, blinding dunes where they picnic, camp, hike and sunbath.

 

The juxtaposition of beach-like behaviour with the sinister history of the site's use is underlined. Embedded in the wall like a sequence of tiny luminous windows, each of the 6 videos runs a looped series of images, echoing a surveillance apparatus, with visitors to the gallery peering closely to observe the moving images.

TRAVEL NOTES 27.05.06: WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, NEW MEXICO

MARY KAVANAGH   © 2023 Mary Kavanagh