Training Montage (Classification Of Nuclear Weapons-Related Information), 2023
The starting point for this work was a United States Department of Energy presentation outlining how Restricted Data should be identified, classified, marked, handled, and declassified.
Restricted Data The Atomic Energy Act defines Restricted Data as all data concerning: 1) Design, Manufacture, or Utilisation of Atomic Weapons 2) Production of Special Nuclear Material 3) Use of Special Nuclear Material in the Production of Energy
In this work, the processes intended to provide organisation and transparency obscure.
“Approximately 1 percent of this document has been blocked out due to the Department of Defense sanitization process used with declassified materials. Portions of this document are not fully legible.”
All the censored blocks from the inside pages of the summary report (sanitised version) of the test series UPSHOT-KNOTHOLE (1953), layered and combined together.
If you’ve ever seen black and white footage of a house suddenly smoking and being obliterated in the blink of an eye, or trees in a forest bend and shatter as an invisible wave rolls in and retreats, UPSHOT-KNOTHOLE is where it happened.
The film footage was used to instill fear in the public whilst at the same time providing supposed evidence that society could continue in the face of atomic annihilation, and that there were practical steps the ordinary person could take to increase their chances of survival.
Of the 11 tests in the 1953 series, most footage comes from the airdropped ENCORE test, slightly larger in yield to the Fat Man bomb dropped over Nagasaki in 1945. Yield in nuclear weapons is generally measured using the equivalent amount kilotons (kt) of TNT. ENCORE was 27kt in yield whereas the most common airdropped device currently in use by the US, the B61, has a yield of between 10-400kt. One kilogram of TNT can destroy a small vehicle.
A rem is a radiation protection unit of measure that quantifies the risk of biological effects resulting from exposure to ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is any radiation (gamma, x-ray, beta, neutron, or alpha) capable of displacing electrons from atoms or molecules, thereby producing ions. According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, the general U.S. population receives about 0.62 rem per year from natural background radiation sources (radon, cosmic rays, and rocks). A standard diagnostic chest x-ray delivers a radiation dose of about 0.02 rem. Observers viewing the series received doses of up to 28 rem.
Emblem II, 2020
Archival pigment print on paper
29cm x 42cm
“BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION PB97-II33D2 Report Nos: DNA-AR-48M-SAN Title: Nuclear Weapon Characteristics Report. Issue 61 (Sanitized Version). Date: I Oct 88 Performing Organization: Defense Nuclear Agency. Washington. DC. Supplemental Notes: Approximately 65 percent of this document has been blocked out due to the Department of Defense sanitization process used with declassified materials. Portions of this document are not fully legible. See also PB96-I7D493. . NTIS Field/Group Codes: 74H (Nuclear Warfare). 74E (Logistics. Military Facilities. & Supplles) Price: PC AD5/MF ADI Availability: Available from the National Technical Information Service. Springfield. vA. 22161 Number of Pages: 72p Keywords: *Nuclear weapons. *Stockpiles. *Assembly. Nuclear bombs. Nuclear warheads. ProJectlles. Inventories. Research and development. Weapons effects. Abstract: This report summarizes pertinent technical information for each nuclear warhead or bomb and its various apglications. These summaries are Rublished for information only. Appendix A is a ibliography on nuclear weapon effects.”
This piece was seen in progress in the OpenHand OpenSpace (OHOS) exhibition Process, where I worked on the jacket and discussed all things nuclear with visitors to the space, and in its current form in Launch On Warning, at Garage Gallery 62. The suit is a deconstructed US Army M65 snow suit, an oversized coverall designed to go over combat dress to provide camouflage in cold climates. The M65 has been shortened, reduced in width, and augmented with a new padded collar, reflective foil, embroidery, and trimming.
The freestyle machine embroidery and applique takes the form of White Oleander flowers; the White Oleander is the official flower of the city of Hiroshima, so chosen as it was the first flower to bloom in the aftermath of the atomic bombing on the 6th of August 1945.
The hood has been cut off and extended, with reflective tape and portions of a sniper camouflage veil added to shield the wearer’s face.
In its construction, I am keen to show commitment to the authenticity of the materials used with regards type, purpose, and aesthetics, but with acknowledgement of the impracticality of this garment in the real world. The work should insulate the wearer, engendering feelings of comfort and protection when worn, even if within a couple of seconds from detonation the wearer has been vaporised.
If the wearer was lucky enough to be outside the radius of the initial fireball, anti-flash white might initially offer some level of additional protection from the thermal radiation, however the buildings brought down, window glass shredding whatever it touches, and fires set ablaze from broken pipes would quickly negate any benefits.
The 2017 population of the borough of Reading is estimated to be around 160,000.
Taking OHOS as ground zero, a 350 kiloton (kt) airburst at 2200m altitude from the single W-78 warhead found in most Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) would result in an estimated 110,000 fatalities, with 159,000 injuries (Wellerstein, 2019).
For reference, the devices used in the 1945 attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had yields of 15 kt and 20 kt respectively.
Yield data on the United Kingdom’s submarine-based Trident system (manufactured and maintained 11 miles away in Aldermaston) has only been estimated, but is suggested to be 100 kt per warhead. Each missile carries five warheads.
CLARFIELD, G. H., & WIECEK, W. M. (1984). Nuclear America: military and civilian nuclear power in the United States, 1940-1980. New York, Harper & Row.
Wellerstein, A. (2019). NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein. [online] Nuclearsecrecy.com. Available at: https://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/ [Accessed 29 Jun. 2019].
Union of Concerned Scientists (2015). Frequently Asked Questions About Taking Nuclear Weapons Off Hair-Trigger Alert. [online] Ucsusa.org. Available at:
Updated September 2019: Acid Capitalist was my journey to visit the Nevada National Security Site, historical site of 44 nuclear test series, including the Sedan Crater. As well as the NNSS, I visited sites in New Mexico linked to the history and development of nuclear and conventional weapons.
American deserts are one of my favourite environments to be in, National Parks a highlight of my trips to the US. The development of weaponry, nuclear or conventional, has frequently had long-term negative impacts on land and communities, so visiting these sites and collections of work by Native artists and makers is something I am really looking forwards to.
I’ve pored over these sites using Google Earth and governmental survey data, but to see something with my own eyes seems important. There’s still that tension in feeling excited about something that has resulted in so much destruction, but I think I need to fully immerse myself, and use the information gathered to reflect afterwards on what i’ve seen. Documenting my travels by writing, photographing, and sketching, and collecting small objects of interest will help me to make work in response. Getting on the NNSS tour has taken three years, and so I am excited to see what comes from my trip.
Poised For Peace: Minot/Ward series, 2017
Four archival pigment prints
Each 40cm x 50cm
Click images to enlarge
Minot/Ward I, 2017 (detail)
Poised For Peace: The motto of the 91st Missile Wing:
“The 91st Missile Wing (91 MW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Force Global Strike Command Twentieth Air Force. It is stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota as a tenant unit.
The 91 MW is one of the Air Force’s three intercontinental ballistic missile wings. The missile wing, whose members are known as the Rough Riders, is responsible for defending the United States by maintaining a fleet of 150 Minuteman III missiles and 15 Launch Control Centers located in underground facilities scattered across the northwest part of the state. The wing’s missile complex stretches over 8,500 square miles—approximately the same size as Massachusetts.”
The Minot/Ward series revolves around the titular town in North Dakota which is home to one of the three remaining ICBM launch sites in the US. The Minuteman III ballistic missiles lie buried in vertical silos beneath the farmland surrounding Minot Air Force Base, and this contrast between the everyday pastoral and what sits hidden beneath is of endless fascination to me.
Using data from 2010, the population of the seven counties the missiles and control centres are sited is 94,572. For reference, the missiles are spread across 8,500 square miles, an area slightly smaller than the South West of England.
When exploring this subject, I feel a tension in my enjoyment in doing so. I feel a pull towards these ominous, incongruous, yet inconspicuous structures and their purpose, whilst also being fully aware of the ramifications of their potential use.
From the 15th August – 28th September 2017 a print from this series is being shown as part of Americas 2017: All Media, at the Northwest Art Center, Minot State University, North Dakota.