Guardianship series 2: Lucy Lippard, Jan 20, 2011
Some facts, some impressions. This event was co-sponsored by the CU Art Department and happened in their sparkling new Visual Arts Center.
Lucy Lippard, arts curator, author and culture critic, packed the hall, with about 250 people in attendance. She began with a photograph of the Galisteo basin where she lives in New Mexico, where she is “on the spot,” surrounded at varying distances by nuclear entities: WIPP near Carlsbad where nuclear waste is supposed to be contained for 10,000 years; Los Alamos, birthplace of the bomb, now destined to pick up the work once done at Rocky Flats, making the fissile plutonium triggers of thermonuclear bombs; the Sandia Lab near Albuquerque; White Sands, location of the July 16, 1945, Trinity bomb blast. All these in New Mexico, a very poor state, heavily nuclearized.
“We are all on the spot” in the nuclear age, all of us are downwinders. None of us escape, nor do our places, where the landscape that shapes us includes the beliefs and ways of life of the occupants. All places, every place is affected by the nuclear, a decidedly long-term reality. But in our culture, long-term thinking is in short supply.
A case in point is efforts to resume uranium mining in the US southwest with plans for a new uranium mill in Paradox Valley, near Uravan, CO, where, despite the record of illness and death from earlier uranium mining and milling in the area, people want the mill because it means jobs and income. They invent new ways of practicing denial. Poverty and nuclear go together.
The role of art in the nuclear situation is to destabilize, to raise questions, not to provide answers. Artists do what scientists cannot do. At Yucca Mountain, for instance, artists conceived of enormous physical structures to indicate a place of danger forever.
She quoted E. L. Doctorow: “We have had the bomb on our minds since 1945. It was first our weaponry and then our diplomacy, and now it’s our economy. How can we suppose that something so monstrously powerful would not, after forty years, compose our identity?”