Atomic Tourist: Trinity engages the spectacle of “atomic tourism” as enacted at Trinity Site, New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was detonated at 5:30am on July 16, 1945. Conducted near the end of World War II by the top-secret Manhattan Project, the Trinity test engendered new forms of consciousness, marking the end of one kind of time, and the birth of another. A growing global phenomenon, atomic tourism attracts millions of visitors each year to significant sites of atomic history. The thousands of visitors who make the pilgrimage to the annual Trinity Open House, testifies to the symbolic resonance of Trinity as a commemorative site, though one inscribed with the anxieties and ambivalences of the nuclear age. The Trinity test took place deep in the desert of New Mexico on what is today the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), which today remains active in weapons testing and proliferation. The U.S. Army has been responsible for Trinity’s status as a tourist destination; on two days each year, the WSMR Public Affairs Office hosts an Open House, and visitors travel to experience where the atomic age began. Public interest in the site has remained intense since it was opened to the press on September 9, 1945, shortly following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1953, after the clean up led by the Atomic Energy Commission, visitors attended the first Trinity Open House. Since 2012, Kavanagh has been interviewing tourists at the Trinity site about their personal connection to this history.
Mary Kavanagh, Associate Professor Department of Art, Faculty of Fine Arts, and MFA/MMus Program Chair, School of Graduate Studies, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge. Kavanagh will discuss her project Atomic Suite which encompasses a series of works that examine atomic history, industry and culture, focusing on detritus and trace as evidence of activity at WWII Wendover Airfield, Utah. The works includes large-scale video projection, a photographic installation and works on paper.