In part looking at British colonial legacies and reflections on contemporary australian culture and identity; this video contains in situ footage from the Maralinga nuclear test sites as well as the Maralinga village shot in 2011. In an attempt to show the space in which these tests occupied as well as the physical and metaphysical environments that were and are contaminated ; I wander these sites, following a nuclear veteran retrace his steps from fifty-five years ago; and in his footsteps, I, this generation, attempt to understand what really happened here.
Between 1952 and 1963 the British Government performed nuclear weapons tests at Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia and Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia. A total of seven major nuclear tests were performed, and up to 700 minor ‘dirty’ trials were also conducted. Many Aboriginal people and nuclear veterans have either died or are still suffering the physical and psychological effects of these tests.
The first of the major test series at Maralinga was codenamed Operation Buffalo; it consisted of exploding four nuclear bombs, the first named One Tree was 12.9 kilotons equivalent. The fallout was found as far away as the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland; these tests were heavily criticised as they were exploded in inappropriate conditions (McClelland Royal Commission 1985).
At 4:15pm on October 9th, 1957, Taranaki, the last of the seven major nuclear tests and last of the Operation Antler series, exploded suspended from a balloon; it yielded a massive 26.6 kilotons of TNT equivalent, almost twice as much as “Little Boy” the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
The Maralinga village, located over 1000km north-west of Adelaide in remote South Australia, hosted over 10,000 servicemen over the entire eleven years the project was underway. The village contained an airport, photography lab, bar, swimming pool, tennis court, football field, cricket pitch and cinema; not many of these structures are left today, but what does remain is mostly overgrown, crumbling or used as a pit for radioactive materials.
Today, much of the area that hosted these blasts in the Maralinga-Tjarutja traditional lands, are off limits and are still radioactive.
The ‘Operation Buffalo’ project is a work in progress in conjunction with my MFA in photomedia at Monash University.
This video and selected photographs will be exhibited as part of the Manifestations of Now; We Australians exhibition at No Vacancy Gallery, Federation Square, Melbourne from the 11th-26th of April 2012. Opening night is Sat 14th April, 2012, 7-10pm –
Artists involved: MONIKA BEHRENS, BOATPEOPLE.ORG, JESSIE BOYLAN, BROWN COUNCIL, SAPNA CHANDU, ZHEN, BINDI COLE, EVA FERNANDEZ, ANN FUATA, JANE KORMAN, KEITH LIM, MISO, PAULA DO PRADO, ROBERTA RICH, CARL SCRASE, DARIO VACIRCA, MICHAEL WARNOCK, PAUL YORE – see: www.weaustralians.org for more information.