Atomic Terrain: Reading & Conversations


From the historic claiming of land as national territory, to the systematic contamination of landscapes, the human impact on the natural world in the name of global security carries a tension between cultivation and control, peace and conflict. Atomic Terrain is an in-depth exploration of this tension as it pertains to the development of the atom bomb, and how the nuclear age transformed humanity's relationship with the natural world. Atomic Terrain exists as a dialogue between two creative projects about plant life and the heavy nuclear stories they carry: "B(L)OOM" and "How to Make a Bomb." By pairing art and research, Atomic Terrain offers nature – the humble existence of plants around us – as an alternative access point to our nuclear past, and encourages us to reckon with the ways this history reverberates in today's geopolitics and cultural landscape.

Atomic Terrain: Reading & Conversations(L)OOM: B(L)OOM, written by Lovely Umayam and published by Passenger Pigeon Press (Tammy Nguyen) is about the retelling of history from the perspective of plants that survived and communities that rebuilt amid the aftermath of nuclear destruction (gingko trees in Japan) or persevered under nuclear threat (sunflowers in Ukraine). Through historical research, creative nonfiction, and hand-made artbook, B(L)OOM weaves a story around a single powerful image: life growing out of rubble.

How to Make a Bomb: How to Make a Bomb is a durational gardening project, examining the structural connections between horticulture, state power, and nuclear colonialism. The project centres on a rare species of garden rose, the Rosa floribunda 'Atom Bomb,' which was developed by German rose breeder Reimer Kordes in 1953 during the height of post-war nuclear fervor. Through processes of grafting and taking cuttings, How to Make a Bomb sees Hirst propagate new specimens of this rose from one of the few remaining plants of the original species, and teaches others how to do the same through How to Make a Bomb public workshops and printed manuals. Since August 2019, the How to Make a Bomb project has been hosted by The Old Waterworks (TOW), in collaboration with curator Warren Harper. TOW is poignantly in close proximity to Foulness Island, a key nuclear weaponry development site, where test weapons bound for Maralinga and the Monte Bello Islands were developed in the 1950s.


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