Friday, June 5, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] artists and atoms: fission and fusion

Hello Everyone,

Thank you for the invitation to participate and I would like to start
with mainly fission. As Guillermo and Gabrielle have already mentioned
the majority of artistic responses related to fission have probably
been bomb and nuclear energy related. Though artistic responses from
the 1950's on word have employed numerous strategies that have not
been limited to 'negative' framing.

Of course, there are millions of depictions of Mushroom Clouds and
looming cooling towers in post-war artworks.  Yet, beyond many
first-degree activist works, the splitting of the atom itself may have
inspired changes in the aesthetic itself of fine art. According to
Stephen Petersen, following the atomic bombs and increased gestural
'explosiveness' occurred in abstract paintings. In this case artists
decision-making while making artworks were directly influenced by the
'visual' output of fission. Even Henry Moore was said to have been
inspired by mushroom clouds for some of his works. Robert Rauschenberg
incorporated small images of atomic explosions in some of his
assemblages- almost as a lingering presence instead of an artistic
focus.  For further examples please see artist Joy Garnet's

There also are attempts at comprehending what it means to split an
atom- here I am thinking about the dematerialization of the art object
itself as discussed by Lucy Lippard. Yves Klein posited the question
of what it means to make art in a world that may altogether may
disappear. Away from fear there is can also be a sense of 'wonder'.
Here I am thinking about some of the works of Eve Andrée Laramée and
some of my own installations that were reactions to visiting 'nuclear'
communities in Ohio, Tennessee and others. (
Radiation was there but I could not see, hear or feel it but it
remained a 'presence' and I wanted to give this a visual form. So
another question is how have fine artists 'visualized' the complex
emotional and psychological issues surrounding fission beyond the fear

Likewise, some artists have attempted to make visible (visual) the
invisible. Such as Sigmar Polke's uranium decay photographs. Here the
artist (allegedly) exposed photosensitive paper to a radioactive
source. The resulting images gave form to an otherwise non-visual
event. One question I would like to ask is how have artists made
fission itself visible beyond mushroom clouds?

Lastly, I wonder about how scientific theories of fission and fusion
have influenced or been a point of departure in contemporary art? Even
in the DIY bomb works by Gregory Green, Tom Sachs, Dominic McGill and
others must have been created at least in part from the artist's
interest in fission theory and technology. Artists such as Mathew
Ritchie and Vargas-Suarez Universal have discussed being inspired by
theories of fission and fusion when creating their installations.

Thank you again,

Brandon Ballengée

Yasmin_discussions mailing list

Yasmin URL:

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: click on the link to the list you wish to subscribe to. In the page that will appear ("info page"), enter e-mail address, name, and password in the fields found further down the page.

HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE: on the info page, scroll all the way down and enter your e-mail address in the last field. Enter password if asked. Click on the unsubscribe button on the page that will appear ("options page").

HOW TO ENABLE / DISABLE DIGEST MODE: in the options page, find the "Set Digest Mode" option and set it to either on or off.