Sunday
Nov272016

atomic works

This series traces my familial and military ties to the origins of the atomic bomb and to Hanford, Washington, site of the first full-scale atomic reactor. This site was constructed in secret as part of the Manhattan Project during WW2 in order to produce plutonium for the world's first atomic weapons. The locality has a distinct and lasting environmental legacy, besides Chernobyl, Hanford is one of the most contaminated places on earth.  The 500-square-mile swath of land is home to ninety percent of the radioactive material used to produce the US arsenal during the arms race of the Cold War.

Narrative Half-Life is a continuing series of media works that began as a piece of creative nonfiction that mingled both facts and myths told to me by my Grandfather, Colonel William Sapper, a Manhattan Project engineer. During the during the early 1940s, intense secrecy shrouded the city of Richland Washington and Bill, who was also an amateur photographer and sound recordist, documented both friends, co-workers and family. My re-tellings are assembled from our family album, boxes of images and correspondence that are a part of my studio and are informed by titles in the Memory Works series.

In the summer of 2016, I was able to finally restore some of the fragile and damaged sound recordings from the war-years that include labor music, limericks and interviews with engineers the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. These restored recordings are part of a new piece for radio that I am producing that will be completeed in 2017.   

 

Live performance during Radiophonic, Les Brigittines,Brussels, (Radio Panik 105.4 FM). Additional solar sounds generously contributed by heiloseismologist Alexander Kosovichev. 

 

I was curious to view the sun above a place that had such an intense focus on energy research and production, and I wanted to drive on the back roads too. It all felt immensely distant, as if the land was receding from me the more I wandered around.  The crows were there and they seemed to know the path to the ruins along the Columbia and so I tossed the map in the backseat and followed them through the sunroof to the edges of the river. In this piece, my mother Lynn shares her story about observing a meteor shower in Richland as a young girl. 

 

 

 A field recording of 20 miles of barded wire on the banks of the Columbia River.