Bombshelltoe highlights the human side of nuclear policy in order to resonate with people who currently feel disengaged.
This project began as an online educational platform using pop culture to demystify coded and insular conversations about nuclear policy. Since then, it has evolved into an interactive collection of images and narratives that explore how nuclear issues are connected to society’s most pressing conversations.
Beyond Going Viral: Finding Social Responsibility for the Atom
With the emergence of political rhetoric suggesting that a new nuclear arms race is the path towards geopolitical strength, the word “nuclear” is – for better or for worse – back in vogue.
Over the past several months, news about the successes of North Korean missile testing, the precarious fate of U.S. – Russia arms control agreements, and anxiety over who has access to the "red button" has elevated nuclear policy into the public consciousness in a way not seen since the Cold War. Given the turn of the tide, academia and civil society are rushing to use this swell of information to make nuclear awareness go viral. However, attracting attention is not the same as capturing public imagination.
Grassroots anti-nuclear activism in the United States during the 60s and 70s – marches, teach-ins, and Congressional calls to action – stemmed from a palpable sense of impending destruction unique to that time. But in today’s “post-truth” era, the public is steeped in a relentless information cycle that makes nuclear issues more undecipherable and unrelatable than ever.
The emergence of interactive news platforms offers new and compelling ways for the public to access information about the nuclear field. But even these videos, infographics and blogs assume that the audience has a base understanding and interest in these issues. Topics that are on the forefront of mainstream conversations – from racial equity to climate change to feminism – share a relationship with nuclear concerns too. It takes effort to illustrate these connections and argue why nuclear issues are worth fighting for, whether it be disarmament or safer nuclear technologies.
Bombshelltoe contextualizes and humanizes rigid historical and political information about nuclear issues in order to make genuine connections with real people – those who will inevitably shoulder the burden and suffer the consequences of a world that continue to value the existence of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Narratives Intersect with Today's Issues
While there are more women working in the nuclear field, it is still difficult to challenge the perceived connection between nuclear weapons and masculinity.
Through the activism of the W.E.B Du Bois, Malcolm X and the King family, civil rights and nuclear disarmament overlapped as essential components of global human rights and peace.
Rising sea levels are driving out Bikini Atoll islanders – the same who were once displaced by U.S. nuclear tests.
So, how can we spark nuclear conversations through inspired understanding, instead of fear and ignorance?
Is there a different way to engage that does not rely on the monolithic narrative of the mushroom cloud?
Presenting work in popular platforms to bring high-level, high-brow nuclear conversations closer to the public.
Example: Presenting and publishing in popular forums, including PopTech, Radiotopia’s Villain-ish podcast, and SXSW to discuss nuclear issues in a familiar frame.
Mesa near Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico – one of the U.S. government facilities that created the bomb
Collaborating with artists and communities to develop works that interpret nuclear topics in a creative and artful manner. Works can be shown online, in galleries or art festivals depending on how each project will best resonate with audiences.
Example: A creative exchange with community Members of Navajo Nation to help preserve indigenous stories about living in proximity with nuclear weapons development during the Manhattan Project -- from enduring the effects of uranium mining to witnessing the first nuclear detonation, the Trinity test. Using film, photography, journalism, and community engagement, the Bombshelltoe team will explore how Navajo stories became tools for empowerment and survival passed down generations to overcome the mental and physical trauma living near uranium mines and the nuclear weapons complex. This project will begin Fall 2017.
Seeking existing ephemera that present unconventional, forgotten and marginalized nuclear narratives– a continuation of Bombshelltoe’s work online.
Example: An online exhibition showcasing how contemporary artists around the world, such as Takashi Murakami (Japan), Subodh Gupta (India), Gil Scott-Heron (USA), and Yhonne Scarce (Australia) interpreted the encounters of their communities with the atom as source of energy or as weapon.
Bombshelltoe aims to incite curiosity and foster empathy, so that nuclear issues are perceived with universal understanding and collective responsibility.