Bruce Conner: Crossroads

until 18 July 2015

Thomas Dane, St James

Bruce Conner’s ‘Crossroads’ is one of the most beautiful, most mesmerising films you’re ever likely to see – not to mention one of the most terrifying, as well as one of the most banal. Made in 1976, it consists of archival footage of a nuclear explosion conducted by the US military 30 years earlier – part of their famous tests, codenamed Operation Crossroads, at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean – in which an atomic weapon, equivalent to 23,000 tons of TNT (identical to the bomb dropped the previous year on Nagasaki), was detonated 90 feet below the ocean’s surface.

Edited together by the late American artist, the black-and-white footage depicts the gargantuan eruption from different angles – at eye level from the lagoon’s surrounding islands, or looking down from planes circling high above – with the repetitions both emphasising the sense of violent spectacle, yet also creating an atmosphere of disturbing, almost listless, monotony.


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