Sunday, February 8, 2009

Day 233: Sedan East

On July 6, 1962 the U.S. military conducted a nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site as part of Operation Ploughshare (a program seeking to find peaceful uses for nuclear weapons). As a result of this test, Sedan crater became the largest human-made crater in the United States. The crater is 1,280 feet wide and 320 feet deep. Sedan was also record-breaking in its amount of contamination released, in which just under 7% of the American population was exposed to harmful radiation (more than 13 million people), the highest number exposed by any nuclear test explosion in the continental USA. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

During a tour of the Nevada Test Site this past October we were able to visit and stand at the edge of Sedan crater. This experience made us newly aware of the extent to which geologic landscapes and landforms in the American west have been dramatically altered by forces of relatively recent human intervention, particularly those altered by the nuclear projects of the United States. These interventions have created entirely new, contemporary geomorphologies (geomorphology is the study of the formation, alteration, and configuration of landforms and their relationship with underlying structures) situated within and upon the existing landscapes.

For the Emerging Artist Fellowship and Open Space program at Socrates Sculpture Park, we propose to dig a contemporary geomorphology, Sedan East. With this work we hope to offer visitors to the Socrates Sculpture Park a context from which they can also become newly aware of the degree to which landscapes have been altered and shaped by human intervention through embodied experience. The project will also link seemingly disparate geographies, such as Long Island City and the Nevada Test Site, through the shared topic of land use.

Sedan East would be a 1/100 scale earth work created in response to the Sedan crater exiting contemporaneously at the Nevada Test Site. The geomorphology will be 12.8 feet in diameter and 3.2 feet deep. Unlike the Sedan crater in Nevada, this form will not be contaminated or exist within the borders of a high-security site, but would be available to be reclaimed by the public through their interaction with it. Taking inspiration from Socrates Sculpture Park’s history as a reclaimed landfill, Sedan East will be planted with grass and offer a context for pausing and activating the work as recreational space. The project will also include the installation of an interpretive plaque describing the history of the Ploughshares program and geomorphic map of the Nevada Test Site.

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