Representing the Unrepresentable:
Bruce Conner's Crossroads and the
Nuclear Sublime

By William C. Wees

 


            My God, it’s beautiful.
            No, it’s terrible.
            (Two responses prompted by the world’s first nuclear explosion.)[1]

 


Operation Crossroads was the code name for the first two of twenty-three nuclear weapons tests the United States conducted at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific between 1946 and 1958. The military purpose of Operation Crossroads was to discover what effect an atomic explosion would have on navy vessels and equipment. The scientific purpose was to gather data on the physical and chemical effects of nuclear explosions, including the amount and extent of radiation they produced.[2] Both tests involved the detonation of a weapon with a yield equivalent to twenty-three million tons of TNT–the same as the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki.[3] Ninety-five out-dated and surplus war ships were anchored close together in Bikini Lagoon. Hundreds of scientific instruments were set up on the ships and surrounding islands. More than seven hundred cameras and approximately five hundred camera operators were also at the test site. Sixty-four aircraft, some of which were radio-controlled drones, carried 328 still and motion picture cameras. Some of the movie cameras were capable of filming at the incredible speeds of 8000 and 3,500 frames per second. According to Jonathan Weisgall, “Nearly half the world’s supply of film was at Bikini for the tests, and photographers prepared specialized equipment that would take 1 million pictures in the first few seconds after the… explosion.” One can hardly argue with Weisgall’s conclusion that “[t]he explosions were to be the most thoroughly photographed moment in history.”[4]

The first test, called Event Able, took place on 1 July1946, with an audience of more than forty thousand, including the crews of the observer ships and the abandoned target ships, other military observers, government scientists, a handful of U.S. politicians, representatives from eleven other countries including the Soviet Union, and around 175 journalists. NBC carried a live radio broadcast of the event with a metronome ticking off the final minutes and seconds before the detonation. The bomb, with an image of Rita Hayworth painted on it, exploded 500 feet above the ocean surface, but it was off-target by almost half a mile.[5] Consequently, not only were many scientific instruments damaged or destroyed, but most of the high-speed cameras failed to record the spectacular explosion because their extreme telephoto lenses were focussed on the pre-established target ship.

On 25 July, however, at Event Baker, everything went according to plan. The nuclear device, suspended ninety feet underwater, produced an even more spectacular explosion, and this time hundreds of cameras recorded the event from many different distances and angles, from sea-level to high above the blast site. They show a massive white column of water rushing upwards “like Niagra Falls in reverse” to a height of over a mile, a mushroom cloud spreading to a width of over 2 miles, and a bank of vaporized water, 2000 feet high, engulfing the anchored ships.[6]
           
Since 1946, selections from archival footage of Operation Crossroads–especially footage of the Baker test–have become a familiar source of nuclear explosions in innumerable documentaries and feature films. Currently, you can watch more than two dozen videos with Crossroads footage on YouTube, including a Universal Newsreel, “First Pictures: Atomic Blast!” that appeared a week after the Able test. It begins with preparations for the test and ends with the explosion–“a motion picture spectacle of all time,” declares the narrator–and then, as the explosion is shown again from a different angle, the narrator concludes, “Once again we see the destructive power of atomic energy.” But the Baker test produced even more powerful images of a nuclear explosion. Probably their best-known appearances have been in the apocalyptic conclusion to Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and at the mid-point transition from despair to hope in Michael Jackson’s video “Man in the Mirror.”[7]  But in my view the most creative and compelling recycling of Baker test footage appears in Bruce Conner’s thirty-six minute, black and white film Crossroads (1976).8 In sampling the critical literature on “nuclear movies” and other cultural appropriations of nuclear imagery, however, I have found only one passing reference to Conner’s film–in a Wikipedia entry on Operation Crossroads. More surprisingly, no thorough discussion of the film appears in the (admittedly not very extensive) critical writing on Conner’s films.[9] I hope to remedy these oversights–to some extent at least–in what follows.

 

FOUR VIEWS OF THE BAKER ATOMIC BOMB TEST HELD ON JULY 25, 1946
AT BIKINI ATOLL, MARSHALL ISLANDS


           
The profound impact of Conner’s film can be best understood, I suggest, by placing it in the context of theories of the sublime developed by Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of Our Feeling of the Sublime and Beautiful published in 1757 and by Emanuel Kant in “Analytic of the Sublime” included in The Critique of Judgement published in 1790. I wouldn’t deny the value of more recent excursions into the aesthetics, psychology and politics of the sublime, but I find Burke’s and Kant’s canonical texts most helpful in coming to terms with Crossroad’s peculiarly powerful effect, or more precisely, its affect–defined here as an emotional, pre-cognitive response to an external stimulus. An affect may be so brief that it is nearly indistinguishable from the cognitive processes that give it a “meaning,” a context, a place in a conceptual register. Or it may elude cognition’s grasp, as it were, and defeat the mind’s efforts to represent it adequately in a conceptual, discursive form. Though vividly present in one’s consciousness, it remains unrepresentable.
           
That profound subjective state is essential to experiencing the sublime. It results from a particular kind of terror or awe. In its quasi-religious sense, awe is defined in the O.E.D. as “dread mixed with veneration, reverential or respectful fear” and “the feeling of solemn and reverential wonder tinged with latent fear, inspired by what is terribly sublime and majestic in nature, e.g. thunder, a storm at sea.” For Edmund Burke “terror is in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latently, the ruling principle of the sublime.”[10] Burke describes a sublime affect as “that state of the soul in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on the object which employs it.”[11] In other words, a subject’s reasoning processes are brought to a standstill by the enormity of what he or she is feeling. One might call it a state of hyper-affect.
           
Refining Burke’s concept of the sublime, Kant proposed two categories of the sublime: the “mathematical sublime” and the “dynamical sublime.” The “mathematical sublime” results from a confrontation with something so numerous, vast and formless that rational processes cannot encompass it; examples include the endless expanse of the ocean and the star-filled night sky. Kant characterized the “dynamical sublime” as “the astonishment amounting almost to terror, the horror and sacred awe” produced by a material embodiment of the incredibly powerful forces of nature, such as “bold, overhanging, and, as it were, threatening rocks, thunderclouds piled up the vault of heaven, borne along with flashes and peals, volcanoes in all their violence of destruction, hurricanes leaving desolation in their track, the boundless ocean rising with rebellious force, the high waterfall of some mighty river....”[12] Kant introduces an important qualification when he specifies that we must not believe we are in actual, physical danger when observing such prospects. A real fear for one’s safety is incompatible with the experience of sublime terror and awe. The sublimity of “the boundless ocean rising with rebellious force” is apparent only to a viewer safely sheltered on shore.
           
With that qualification in mind, I want to propose a sub-category of what David Nye has called “the American technological sublime.”[13] I will call it “the nuclear sublime”:  “the astonishment amounting almost to terror, the horror and sacred awe” felt by those witnessing a nuclear explosion–from a safe distance, of course.  The first test of an atomic device took place at Alamogordo in the New Mexico desert on 16 July 1945.  The project’s director, J. Robert Oppenheimer, inspired by John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV beginning, “Batter my heart, three person’d God,” gave it the code name “Trinity.” To those who witnessed the Trinity explosion, Nye writes, “It was a terrifying and irresistible force, like a hurricane or a volcano, which scientists believed they were observing in comparative safety.”[14] At the time of the explosion Oppenheimer commented laconically, “It worked.” But subsequently he said it brought to mind two passages in the Bhagavad-Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns/ Were to burst at once into the sky,/ That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One,” and,  “I am become Death/ The shatterer of worlds.”[15] (Interestingly, a description of the Able explosion by William Laurence in The New York Times echoes Oppenheimer’s first Bhagavad-Gita passage: “When the flash came it lighted up the sky and ocean with the light of many suns, a light not of the earth.”)[16] Equally expressive of the nuclear sublime is a description of the explosion by another observer at Alamogordo,  Brigadier General Thomas F. Farrell:

 

The effects could well be called unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous and terrifying.... The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun.... It lighted every peak, crevasse, and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined.... Thirty seconds after the explosion came...the strong, sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare tamper with the forces heretofore reserved to The Almighty.[17]         

  

The Times correspondent William Laurence who witnessed both the Trinity and Crossroads tests fully mastered the rhetoric of the nuclear sublime. “In that moment hung eternity,” he wrote of the Trinity test. “Time stood still. Space contracted to a pinpoint.... One felt as though he had been privileged to witness the Birth of the World–to be present at the moment of creation when the Lord said: ‘Let there be light.’”[18]  Comparable rhetoric of the nuclear sublime appears in reports of the Baker event at Bikini Atoll. A reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer described “a gigantic dome of water, white, beautiful, terror-inspiring,” and Laurence called the explosion “one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring sights ever seen by man on this planet.”[19] “The splendor of the Mighty One,” “forces heretofore reserved to The Almighty,” “to be present at the moment of creation when the Lord said: ‘Let there be light,’” “magnificent, beautiful, stupendous and terrifying,” “awesome roar,” “terror-inspiring,” “awe-inspiring”–Burke and Kant would have recognized the characteristic symptoms of the sublime in such efforts to put into words the experience of observing a nuclear explosion.
           
But they probably would not have foreseen how quickly and easily the nuclear sublime could degenerate into the familiar and banal. As early as August 1946, Norman Cousins wrote in the Saturday Review of Literature, “After four bombs, the mystery [of nuclear explosions] dissolves into a pattern. By this time, there is almost a standardization of catastrophe.”[20] The well-known 1982 compilation film The Atomic Cafe and a recent collection of essays entitled Atomic Culture: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb offer abundant evidence of that process of standardization evolving into Cold War propaganda and a staple of popular culture. Indeed, in the same summer as Operation Crossroads a shop in Cannes began selling a skimpy two-piece bathing suit called the “l’atome”; while a rival shop offered an even skimpier version: “le Bikini.” Since the deadly radiation produced by a nuclear explosion was invisible, the explosion’s graphically distinct mushroom cloud became the iconic representation of the “standardization of catastrophe.” It was featured again and again in newsreels, newspapers and news magazines in the late 1940s and the 1950s. It appeared on t-shirts, posters, stamps, record jackets, the record labels of the Atomic Record Company, and as painted and neon signs for enterprises like the Atomic Café in Los Angeles and Atomic Liquors in Las Vegas. A mushroom cloud decorated the cover of the Las Vegas High School yearbook for 1953. The same city sponsored a Miss Atomic Bomb beauty contest with “fluffy white mushroom clouds pinned to [the contestants’] bathing suits.”[21]
           
In her contribution to the Atomic Culture collection, Costandina Titus argues that like the Nazi swastika, the mushroom cloud became what she calls “political kitsch”–that is, “a reinforcing symbol, a bonding force that aestheticizes destruction and makes it acceptable.”[22] The conclusion of Dr. Strangelove offers an ironic demonstration of that aestheticization with its ballet of nuclear explosions and mushroom clouds choreographed to Vera Lynn’s rendition of “We’ll Meet Again.” Like Dr. Strangelove, Crossroads is composed of a series of nuclear explosions, but due to its structure and Conner’s exploitation of the formal, filmic properties of time, space and sound, his film revives the sense of the nuclear sublime that the “atomic culture” had reduced to commercial and political kitsch.
           
Conner had already inserted a shot of a nuclear explosion in the complex montage of his earlier found-footage films Cosmic Ray (1961), Report (1963-1967), and most famously in A Movie (1958), where it serves as the visual punch line to a dark, ironic joke about the orgasmic release of aggressive, male desire. For those films Conner appears to have used images from 8mm or 16mm copies of newsreels or documentaries that could be purchased by mail order or at camera shops. But for Crossroads he bought some of the footage of the Baker event deposited in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and later declassified for public use. In contrast to his usual practice Conner did not (with a few exceptions) chop his archival footage into collage-sized bits, nor did he tamper with its spatial-temporal coordinates. He told Scott MacDonald, “The original material from the National Archives is exactly what you see.” And no doubt thinking about the footage in extreme slow motion, he added, “I did not change any speed on the footage.”[23] While remaining faithful to his archival source, Conner transformed it from a documentary record of the Baker event to a sustained, thirty-six minute evocation of the nuclear sublime.
           
Of the twenty-four shots that comprise the film as a whole, the shortest is approximately three seconds; the longest–and last–occupies six and a half minutes of screen time. The average length of the shots is approximately one minute and forty-five seconds–a very leisurely pace compared to Conner’s other found-footage films (with the exception of Marilyn Times Five [1968-1973]). What these numbers fail to convey is the interplay of observation, anticipation, surprise, and contemplation created though variations in the tempo of the editing, in the timing of the explosion in each shot, in “the speed on the footage,” and in the relationship of sound to image. Placed at the service of the stunning imagery of the explosion in the archival footage, these elements give Conner’s film its formal unity and emotional impact.

Crossroads is divided into two parts separated by a few moments of black in which two thin white lines intersect, graphically suggesting both a crossroads and the cross hairs of a bombsight. (The same crossroads/cross hairs appear at the beginning and end of the film.) Part one opens with a sea-level view of distant ships anchored on a tranquil sea. We hear the faint hum of an airplane, occasional distant bird calls, and after about forty-five seconds, a barely audible voice going through the familiar count-down, ending with “fire,” at which point the ocean erupts in a massive, ragged column of water and billowing clouds and banks of steam that dwarf and eventually engulf all the ships visible in the shot. The distant, ambient drone of a plane and muted screeches of birds continue until, about thirty seconds after the detonation, the shock wave shakes the camera, and an awesome roar drowns out all other sounds and continues to reverberate for most of the remaining two minutes of the shot. The second shot shows the target area from the air and is accompanied by a more predominant hum of airplane engines; otherwise it follows the same pattern as the first shot: a long wait, then the explosion and, some thirty seconds later, the shock wave and the thundering, reverberating roar of an explosion. As we prepare to wait for the explosion in the the third shot (another aerial view, but from a different height and angle), it catches us by surprise by the sudden eruption of water, steam and clouds only a few seconds after the shot begins, and for the remaining six shots of part one, the timing of the explosion varies, as does the length of the shots and speed of movement within them. In the last shot extreme slow motion (most likely produced by a camera filming at 8000 frames per second) makes the expanding mushroom cloud and advancing wall of steam appear nearly motionless, calling to mind William Laurence’s evocation of the Trinity detonation: “In that moment hung eternity. Time stood still.” During the twelve minutes of part one, the nine explosions are the same yet different, due to the combination of repetition and variation in Conner’s selection and editing of different shots of the Baker event. Rather than dulling our response through a “standardization of catastrophe,” each shot renews the sublime effect of the explosion.
           
The soundtrack makes an important contribution to that effect. Beginning with the third shot we see and hear the explosion simultaneously–a tip-off that the soundtrack is not an actual record of what was heard before, during and after the detonation. In fact, the sound of the explosion, as well as the ambient sounds of airplane engines and bird calls were created on a Moog Synthesizer by Patrick Gleason (who also created the subtle, evocative soundtrack for Conner’s Take the 5:10 to Dreamland [1977]). Moreover, the sound quality of the explosion varies from shot to shot–from a sudden thunderous crash and  “strong, sustained, awesome roar” like that heard by General Farrell at the Trinity test, to a hissing whoosh suggesting hurricane-force winds and torrential rainstorms, to a deep, sustained, earthquake rumble. That deep rumble continues without a break during the final few shots of part one. Along with suggesting the awesome release of primordial energy, the extended rumbles and roars created by Gleason’s synthesizer suit the slow motion shots that dramatically expand the time of the explosion and its aftermath and give us the leisure to savour the “terror, the horror and sacred awe” of the nuclear sublime.
           
The expansion of time becomes even more dominant in the second part of the film. At twenty-four minutes, part two is twice as long as part one, but it includes only six explosions among its fifteen shots, many of which concentrate on cloud formations drifting high above the blast site or on the bank of radioactive vapou advancing upon the ships anchored farthest away from the point of the explosion. In place of Gleason’s simulation of the sound(s) of a nuclear explosion, the soundtrack of part two contains a minimalist composition that might be thought of as “slow motion music” gradually changing shape and texture like an exfoliating mushroom cloud. The music “drifts” much like the clouds in part two. Its source is a sixteen-track recording of Terry Riley performing on an electronic organ. If the sound in the first part of the film emphasizes the concrete, visceral impact of the explosion, in the second part it suggests a more contemplative response, a kind of extended reverberation of the sublime within the mind (Burke would have said in the soul) of the viewer. In their own way both soundtracks deepen and expand upon the perceptual and emotional experience produced by the images. Both also underscore the sense of expanded time created by the the varying degrees of slow motion on the visual track.
           
At its extreme, the slow motion extends one second of real time to more than three minutes of screen time thanks to the special high-speed cameras prepared for use at Operation Crossroads. Conner takes advantage of that expanded time to make the Baker Event more, rather than less, awe-inspiring. In contrast to the music-video-like pacing of the conclusion of Dr. Strangelove, with its nearly twenty explosions in less than two minutes, the slow pace of Conner’s editing in Crossroads (fifteen explosions in thirty-six minutes) and the slow motion within the shots allow us to take in the awesome effects of each explosion and experience again and again the terror and awe of the nuclear sublime.
           
During the approximately eight minutes following the fifteenth and final explosion, which is viewed at sea level, a gray wall of mist slowly engulfs a distant ship and continues to advance almost imperceptibly toward us as a slow, slow pan gradually brings the dark silhouette of the prow of another ship into view at screen left. Before it comes into full view the screen goes black, but in keeping with the pace of the film as a whole, Terry Riley’s meditative music continues for another thirty seconds, leaving us to contemplate the cumulative affect of all that has come before and, perhaps, discover that the nuclear sublime offers in the end a special kind of pleasure. (I will have more to say about the nature of that pleasure in my conclusion.)
           
The black screen at the end of the film eliminates the frame that has kept the explosions contained within recognizable space, and until that happens, spatial relationships make their own contribution to the film’s evocation of the nuclear sublime. Within the space framed by the cameras’ telephoto lenses, the explosion’s column of water, wall of mist, and mushroom cloud dwarf the anchored ships, some of which are, in reality, longer than a city block and several stories high. And thanks to the telephoto lenses’ inevitable “flattening” of space, the distant event seems much closer and more overpowering than it would have appeared to those observing it from ships anchored at safe distances from the explosion.
           
The extremely reduced perception of depth, the relative size of the explosion and the warships, the extreme slow motion, the slow pace of the repetition-with-variation editing, and the electronically created aural effects–all contribute to a cinematic representation of the awesome grandeur of a nuclear explosion. They offer the receptive viewer an experience of the nuclear sublime, which, by definition, cannot be represented–as the final image-less thirty seconds of the film suggests.
           
It can, however, produce a special kind of pleasure–what Kant called “negative pleasure” to distinguish it from the positive pleasure offered by that which may be beautiful but lacks the terror and awe of the sublime. Negative pleasure, if I understand Kant correctly, arises from the recognition that Reason has the capacity to encompass, if not rationally explain, affective experiences of terror and awe that go beyond the boundaries of representable categories of human experience. We gain pleasure from the paradoxical condition of recognizing that we can think about the unthinkable; our capacity for reason can take pleasure in accommodating the unreasonable. As Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe puts it, “The experience of the sublime is one in which the human subject at once experiences the overwhelming but then in effect overwhelms the overwhelming by being able to grasp it as a concept.... [The sublime is] that which the imagination can’t imagine containing, and therefore contains as concepts of the uncontainable.”[24] Gilbert-Rolfe’s formulation of the mental process of negative pleasure–“at once… but then…”–describes the experience Conner offers viewers through his skilful deployment of the Operation Crossroads footage. Each repetition of the detonation at once renews our awed astonishment at (cinematically) witnessing a nuclear explosion, but then allows us time, from a few seconds to several minutes, to take pleasure in recognizing that we can comprehend the incomprehensible, imagine the unimaginable.

 

 


NOTES

1. Lansing Lamont, Day of Trinity (New York: Atheneum,1985), p. 242.

2. Although not officially recognized as such, the tests had a political purpose as well: to demonstrate America’s military superiority as the only country (at that time) possessing nuclear weapons.

3. My principal sources of information about Operation Crossroads are Jonathan M. Weisgall, Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1994), the website of the Naval Historical Center–Department of Navy, www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq76-1, and the entry on Operation Crossroad on the Wikipedia website, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Crossroads.htm. When details in the accounts differ I have usually relied on Weisgall’s extensive, thoroughly researched version of the events.

4. Weisgall, p. 121. In addition, three artists, one from the Marine Corps and two from the Navy, were present to make watercolours and oil paintings of the event. Examples are posted at www.history.navy.mil/ac/bikini/bikini1.htm.

5. A subsequent investigation determined that the bomb missed its target because its tail stabilizer was flawed.

6. Weisgall, p. 223.

7. Other popular culture uses of Crossroads footage include The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s music video “Under the Bridge,” a dream sequence in the sitcom Family Matters, the video game Metal Gear Solid, an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants called “Dying for Pie,” and the film Godzilla (Tristar Pictures, 1998), (Wikipedia, “Operation Crossroads,” consulted 31 January 2008; not included in the current Wikipedia entry on Operation Crossroads).

8. Originally the film was available for rental from Canyon Cinema in San Francisco in 16mm and 35mm formats. Currently it is only available on a DVD, Two Films by Bruce Conner, distributed by Michael Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles. It may become available again, however, in 16mm or 35mm.film; enquiries should be sent to www.canyoncinema.com.

9. The best compact commentary on Crossroads I have seen is Scott MacDonald’s in The Garden in the Machine: A Field Guide to Independent Films About Place (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 322-323; the film goes unmentioned in Bruce Jenkins’s otherwise excellent essay, “Explosion in a Film Factory: The Cinema of Bruce Conner,” in 2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story Part II (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1999), pp. 185-223.

10. Edmund Burke, in The Sublime: A Reader in British Eighteenth-Century Aesthetic Theory, eds. Andrew Ashfield and Peter de Bola (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 133.

11. Ibid, p. 132.

12. Emanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, trans. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952), p. 91.

13. David E. Nye, American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994). MacDonald also alludes to Nye’s influential book in his comments on Crossroads (322).

14. Nye, 227. For Nye’s complete discussion of nuclear energy’s place in the history of “the American technological sublime,” see pp. 227-237.

15. Quoted in Lamont, p. 235.

16. William Laurence, The New York Times,1 July 1946, p. 1; quoted in Weisgall, p. 186.

17. Quoted in Herbert Feis, Between War and Peace: The Potsdam Conference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1960), 169. Nye (227) incorrectly ascribes the statement to General Leslie Groves, the Army’s commander in charge at Alagamoro.

18. Quoted in Constandina Titus, “The Mushroom Cloud as Kitch,” in Atomic Culture: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, eds. Scott C. Zeman and Michael A. Amundson (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2004), p. 106.

19. Both quotations from Weisgall, pp. 221-222. Weisgall reports that the observers at Bikini were between nine and fifteen miles from the explosion, which leads one to suspect that reporters’ descriptions of the Bikini events may have been shaped as much by the newly minted rhetoric of the nuclear sublime as by what the explosion actually looked like at those distances.

20. Quoted in Weisgall, p. 247.

21. Titus, p. 108. Beginning in 1951, the test site for nuclear weapons within the U.S. was in the Nevada desert, approximately sixty-five miles northeast of Las Vegas where the ability to view nuclear detonations became a matter of civic pride–and a major tourist attraction.

22. Titus, p. 105; see also Titus, “Back to Ground Zero: Old Footage Through New Lenses,” The Journal of Popular Culture 11.1 (1983), pp. 2-11. In The Garden in the Machine MacDonald reports that “when Peter Watkins was preparing to shoot The Journey (1987)...one of his first decisions was that the film would include no motion picture imagery of nuclear detonations, because such imagery had become so pervasive in the culture as to endanger the planet by naturalizing the sight of bombs going off” (322).

23. MacDonald, p. 438, n.6.

24. Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, “I’m Not Sure It Is Sticky,” in Sticky Sublime, ed. Bill Beckly (New York: Allworth Press, 2001), p. 84.

 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

William C. Wees is an Emeritus Professor at McGill University where he taught literature, film, and cultural studies courses for many years. In addition to numerous articles and reviews, he is the author of Vorticism and the English Avant-Garde, Light Moving in Time: Studies in the Visual Aesthetics of Avant-Garde Film, and Recycled Images: The Art and Politics of Found Footage Films.




INCITE Journal of Experimental Media
Issue Number Two (Spring-Fall 2010)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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