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

Photographic installation | Video (duration: 10 minutes)

Atomic Suite reflects on the historical rupture marked by the development and 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 is 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 B-29 bombers used in the mission, were housed in a large hangar that today stands as a shrine to atomic history. Situated in Great Basin Desert in Utah, the environment is characterized by gleaming white salt flats and alkali mud flats. It is home to extractive mining operations, the Bonneville Salt Flats International Raceway, gambling casinos, and iconic American land art.

As she immersed herself in this environment for a period of two months, Kavanagh developed an extensive photographic archive, which resulted in Atomic Suite. During this time she also collaborated with Butoh dancer, Techan Imai, to record a commissioned dance performance at Hopi, Arizona, on August 6, 2010, the 65th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.


The exhibition, Atomic Suite, encompasses a photographic installation (72 photographs), a video projection, and works on paper, all of which document activities at and around World War Two Wendover Airfield: historic airplane hangars, bunkers, bombing and shooting ranges, munitions igloos, craters, Marines in combat training for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ordnance disposal at the Utah Test and Training Range, mining, industry, and Land Art including Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.


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