Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Museum of Nuclear Waste

Nicholas Mangan - Black perils and pearls: Ed Grothus’ Doomsday Stones
Gambia Castle
22 August - 19 September 2009

Nick Mangan is a Melbourne sculptor and film-maker preoccupied with global politics and social/historical issues in the Pacific region. His short film at Gambia Castle presents the views of Edward Grothus (1923-2009), a machinist and technician who during the fifties and sixties was employed in the Los Alamos National Laboratory to aid the development of nuclear weapons. His work helped create bombs thirty times more powerful than those dropped on Japan in 1945. Grothus resigned in 1969 during the Vietnam War to become a peace activist.

Grothus died early this year of colon cancer, but Mangan’s film gives us a good look at his activities within the Museum of Nuclear Waste he set up in Los Alamos, and his attempts to erect in the township two ten metre tall, granite obelisks on Rosetta Stone-type bases bearing fifteen translations of a warning text. One metre wide, soccer ball-like granite spheres, showing the structures of nuclear fission, were to be placed on top of each column, and the obelisks’ sides bore anti-nuclear logos accompanied by aphorisms such as ‘one bomb is too many’, ‘always build; never destroy’ and ‘no one is secure unless everyone is secure.’

Mangan’s film is accessible and informative. I had never heard of Grothus and so I’m pleased I saw it. However it is a conservative approach to film usage and so very odd for Gambia Castle. It’s not particularly exciting in its use of the medium, but pragmatic. Out to save the human species from its own stupidity, so no interest in innovation. Educational.

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