Another perspective on the nuclear arms race

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Beep, flash, boom: the music of nuke tests

By Russel Smith, The Globe and Mail, July 7, 2010

Internet art often exists on the intersecting boundaries of video, lecture, graphic design, publicity, slide-show and game. The medium lends itself to short video clips, but those can then be limitlessly annotated and explained with links. Political or otherwise didactic art benefits especially from this panoply of moving media. The result is not just interesting art but also slightly more populist art, art that people might use as part of an argument at a dinner party.

Here’s an especially successful example: a 2003 video by the Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto, a guy preoccupied with nuclear weaponry and war (he’s now in his 50s and so grew up with the Japanese recovery from that). It’s a map of the world with an animation that shows all the nuclear explosions around the world from 1945 to 1998. The calendar, a date at the top right, slowly advances; one month elapses per second. There is a beep at every new year. The explosions are shown as quick flashes, in the exact location where they happened. Flags at the edges of the map keep a score for each country’s nuclear tests (they are all, with the exception of the two in Japan, tests). Each country’s tests are represented by a different colour flash, but also by a different musical tone. It takes around 13 minutes for the 53 represented years to elapse.

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