Knowledge Divided

Knowledge Divided

[6] Joseph Masco, Nuclear Borderlands (Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 2006), 1.

“The detonation of the atomic bomb marked the end of one time and the apotheosis of another,” Joseph Masco writes.[6] Often described as an unthinkable act, the testing of the atomic bomb in the middle of the New Mexican desert has for so long been understood within the terms of a “nuclear sublime,” a singular, incomprehensible, and barely perceivable event. The term “sublime” has for too long placed the test outside the realm of language, photography, and documentation.


[7] Ibid., 24, 3.

As Kavanagh so aptly establishes in her research-based art practice and exhibitions, Atomic Tourist: Trinity, Atomic Suite, and Daughters of Uranium, we should begin to think of Trinity as a series of coordinated events and its immediate and lingering effects around the world, especially in Japan, and the advent of a new world condition. Sometimes called the “nuclear age,” the anthropocene, or simply modernity, this new world condition has readily equipped world powers with commitments to national security, which involves secrecy and obfuscation to control and surveil. A perpetual “state of emergency,” as Masco points out, precipitates a simultaneously terrifying and horrifying condition in which industrial technology meets with new ways of life, a “radioactive nation-building” and a “proliferation of discourses about vulnerability and insecurity.”[7]


[8] Jacques Derrida, quoted in Peter C. van Wyck, Highway of the Atom (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010), 4.

In the hands of those who do not want to, or cannot, forget, and who wish to mine the physical and discursive landscapes for the lapses of responsibility that leave their traces there, an archive is a critical step in combatting obfuscation and correcting the wrongdoings of the nuclear state. To understand these weaponized landscapes, we must see them as conflicted sites of confrontation, as a place, as a story, as a record, concurrently cultural, geological, and discursive. As Jacques Derrida writes, “there is no testimony … that does not at lease structurally imply in itself the possibility of fiction, simulacra, dissimulation, lie, and perjury. … If testimony thereby became proof, information, certainty, or archive … it would lose its function as testimony.”[8] As witnesses, Peter C. van Wyck writes, we are always too late.