desert sun

In the summer of 2005, Sasha Harris-Cronin invited me to participate in the Simnuke show she and Max Carlson curated at the Rx Gallery in San Francisco. The show was just part of a larger project exploring the themes of nuclear arms and the atomic age on the anniversary of the Trinity tests.

I struggled for some time with the question of how to approach so profound (and hence almost banal) a subject matter.

In the end, I found direction in the impossibility of asking a sound installation to address such complex abstractions; instead, I turned to what gives my field recordings their emotive force: that they evoke a very particular, very concrete experiential moment.

My installation, Desert Sun, was built around a single recording (made specifically for the piece) of forbidding warning signs rattling in a harsh desert wind outside the Nevada Test Site.

Viewers were instructed to don a safety blindfold and sit in a chair between high-quality speakers playing the recording at its original volume. A full spectrum heat lamp was focused on the forehead of the participant (who in its ultraviolet glare might eventually sunburn). A fan behind the chair reproduced the gusting of the recorded wind.

The intent was to recreate as closely as possible the sensations of being, eyes closed, in the bright afternoon of the high desert.

My full artist's statement is here.



the other rooms
gauntánamo express

desert sun
the other side
on top of the world
what the thunder said
san francisco sauvignon

would you, would you?
invisible cities
deep creatures
vincent fecteau
monkey pod

Desert Sun

Simnuke also famously involved the ignition of a simulated nuclear blast in Nevada's Black Rock desert to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Trinity test at Los Alamos:

On July 16, 1945 at 05:29:45 local time (Mountain War Time), a team of scientists reached the culmination of the Manhattan Project, the first test of a nuclear weapon. The event was code-named "Trinity."

On July 16, 2005, at 05:29:45 local time, a team of artists and engineers will commemorate the 60-year anniversary of Trinity by simulating the look and feel of the detonation of a nuclear device.

As it happens, my then-housemate Zoë Keating played cello at the desert event.


desert sun 15 MB

Signs in the desert wind, on the edge of the Nevada Test Site, as recorded in June 2005. The signs warn trespassers of dire consequences should they enter uninvited the Nevada Test Site, a wasteland home to weapons development and testing (and the notoriously unofficially existing Area 51). This is an unedited field recording presented in its entirety; it was the audio component of the installation.