Thirteen radioactive sites linked by a common ritual movement. Inspired by a history of protest and a culture of amnesia.
Our project was birthed from our personal discovery of the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp in the UK. The camp, which at times swelled to 70,000 women, spanned nearly two decades from 1981 to 2000. Their protest began in response to the US military claiming Greenham Common to stock nuclear cruise missiles for their strategic use in the Cold War. This style of protest spread to other European countries, as well as to Seneca, NY and Kent, WA, where similar women-only camps were set up. Groups of women have organized for disarmament since the powerful destruction of the atom was witnessed first hand. The stories of nuclear invention and women's action run parallel to each other, and both have all but disappeared from public conversation. We seek to uncover that thread of conversation and through ritual movement and image revive the spirit.
We have charted a month-long driving tour of the western United States, through Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. We have researched and chosen thirteen different sites, comprised of nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons test sites, uranium mills, radioactive waste treatment and storage sites, and the "First Atomic City," of Arco, Idaho.
We will use archival footage, songs, and imagery collected mainly from the peace camps of Greenham Common and Seneca, NY to inform our performances. Important ideas from these are: Yarn Webs- yarn and scraps of fabric knotted into web shapes, symbolizing the interconnectedness of all life, woven around women and fences consequently making it more difficult for police to extract and arrest them. Benders- temporary shelters made by bending branches and fastening tarps or blankets over the branches (in response to a 'no tents' rule). Performance and Singing- creative non-violent resistance, such as constant singing and theater performance, blocking gates and roads were utilized extensively and attracted media attention. Ritual- a common thread amongst these camps was the use of ritual, the mass coming together of women under the same objective: defending Earth and all life upon it. Finally, the Still Images of women shouting, singing, holding hands, arm in arm, or making camp will be used as we conjure their memories at our chosen sites.
The same performance will be repeated at each of the thirteen sites. Our vision is to have one ritualistic movement that threads all sites together, so that the performer/protestor is constant, while the landscape shifts endlessly; stressing the magnitude of land that is abused and subsequently made radioactive for hundreds of years by the nuclear industry.
To remind the viewers of the multitude of women at these camps, we plan to create composite photographs. By superimposing different images of one location we multiply the person in the frame. What will come out of this is our attempt to recognize the incredible number of women who participated in these actions while simultaneously sending out a call to our peers missing in these images.
At the completion of the first phase of this project we hope to have extensive video and photographic documentation that will be used for an installation and live performance. We envision a space where the film is projected to fill up the walls, bringing the expansiveness of the lands to the gallery. Sage brush we will gather will be placed on the ground as a continuation of the projected images. The plants add another layer of sensory experience for the audience. As people enter the space they will be invited to look at a map of our route, the names of the thirteen places where we performed, and the significance of each site.
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