Image operations: Surplus Visibility in Oceanic Nuclear Testing

Activity: Talk typesInvited talk


This presentation examines the operational “half-life” of visual documentation of Operation Crossroads, the first postwar atomic test conducted by the U.S. military in the area white settlers refer to as Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Beginning with their immediate public reception in the summer of 1946, we analyze different cultural arenas in which these representations have circulated, from newsreels to MTV, experimental video to Hollywood blockbusters. We argue that the conditions of these images’ production and circulation points towards a preoccupation with surplus--military, geographic, sensory, and libidinal--during the immediate postwar period, just as the United States began to regard the Pacific as a Cold War frontier rather than a battleground for supremacy over Japan. By analyzing how images of Operation Crossroads were produced and circulated, and later, how they were manipulated, repurposed and recuperated, our research seeks to illuminate the vital role of visual representation in the test's enactment of empire, mastery, and apocalypse, and its deeper implications for more recent representations of the Pacific as a site of anthropocenic origins and limits. (Presented for the Renfrew Colloquium)
PeriodApr 22 2021
Held atUniversity of Idaho, United States, Idaho