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This project was successfully funded on September 23, 2013

The Evolution of Silence

by Rachele Riley


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Through this campaign I hope to raise a maximum amount of $9,700 to support the programming, production and exhibition of ‘The Evolution of Silence.’


On March 17, 1953, fifty mannequins, outfitted by a downtown Las Vegas branch of JC Penney, withstood the impact of a nuclear bomb, named Annie. Images of these early test dummies made the force of nuclear explosions visible. ‘The Evolution of Silence’ attempts to address the scale of damage brought about by forty-one years of post-World War II nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site (from 1951–1992). I am creating a Web-based archive and exhibition that presents a non-linear map and interpretation of the area’s destruction, and allows for exploration of this restricted desert landscape. 

In this project I share information that I have gleaned from archives and publications, including material that I acquired from the U.S. Government directly via a Freedom of Information Act Request. The project employs my own explorations of disappearance, disruption, and silence. It is intended to be a reflective experience for viewers. Since it presents a significant amount of objective information about nuclear testing, it also has the potential to be a resource for other people’s research. It is my goal to make this remote place more knowable, and to bring attention to the area as an important symbol of the impact of war.

The Web-based project launched this September, in conjunction with ‘Praxis and Poetics’ at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. I have reached my initial fundraising goal of $3,200 and so the archive’s basic programming needs are covered! In Phase 2 of the project, I will be translating the Web-based archive into an exhibition. As an installation, I hope to develop an interpretation of the archive that can be navigated through movement in space. All donations are tax-deductible and those that are made now will directly fund the project’s further development and exhibition, and will also offset the costs for marketing and printing. I met with curators and historians last December in Las Vegas to discuss scenarios for exhibiting the interactive work, along with solar prints of the mannequins and other interpretations of the crater-marked landscape. One possible exhibition venue is the former downtown Las Vegas JC Penney Co. store—exactly the building where the mannequins were dressed and prepared before the 1953 Annie nuclear test. 

I am so grateful to you all for your generosity and support. Your contributions have helped fund the final production of the Web-based archive. Soon I will begin designing and developing a layer to the project that will allow anyone to contribute stories and impressions. Your financial support has also helped to offset the costs of research travel that has been fundamental to the project: my travel to Washington, D.C. to scan previously unpublished Department of Energy photographs and to Las Vegas, NV, where I tracked memos and newspaper accounts that describe the LA Darling mannequins’ post-nuclear-testing nationwide tour. 

This next phase to the campaign aims to extend the project beyond the Web and to truly realize its full potential.  

Thank you for your continued interest in my project, and thank you for your support!

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