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At 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, an unfathomable flash of light stretched across the vast expanse of desert sky in Alamogordo, NM. The atomic sublime—born at this moment without referent—unleashed a new era of fallout, fear, and post-modern dread. Over the next few decades, drifting radioactive debris from nuclear testing carried out a silent, molecular attack on the DNA of downwind communities across the American West. Trinity, the first of countless ecologically devastating explosions, also marked the inception of a covert government program which calculated, measured, and monitored the effects of this fallout. Decades later, declassified government documents revealed that the people and animals inhabiting these sacrifice zones were known collateral damage, otherwise referred to as “a low use segment of the population.”
Shanna Merola, Nuclear Winter: Jornada del Muerto (The Working Day of the Dead), 2019, courtesy the artist
Shanna Merola, Nuclear Winter: Strontium-90, 2019, courtesy the artist
Set against the backdrop of Cold War inspired architecture, Nuclear Winter
investigates the visual manifestation of atomic anxiety, both physically and psychologically. Since the inception of the Manhattan Project, the geographical topographies of our modern landscape have been forever altered by underground nuclear waste containment systems, decommissioned bomb shelters, hidden government laboratories, and test sites built to withstand the blast of a hundred suns. Across cities and college campuses, the un-loving grey concrete of brutalist monuments still tower overhead—eternally poised and ready for attack—while suburban fallout shelters have transformed into backyard time capsules. These anachronistic relics serve to memorialize the fears of a society on the perceived brink of impending annihilation. But the day-to-day horrors of the nuclear project wrought a more insidious violence. From atomic test site veterans to frontline communities burdened with radioactive waste, long-term effects on the human body range from rare types of cancer to miscarriage and genetic mutation.
Shanna Merola, Nuclear Winter: Radium (RA), 2019, courtesy the artist
Shanna Merola, Nuclear Winter
, analogue photo collage series, 2019-ongoing.