The above was the "winning" entry in an international competition for the design of a marker for the controversial Yucca Mountain Nuclear
Waste site in Nevada. The Desert Space Foundation, a non-profit organisation
based at UNLV, Las Vegas, were the organisers of this competition. Their
brief stated that the warning sign must remain "live"
for atleast 10,000 years, the period nuclear waste would remain radioactive.
This "solution" was a reaction to the enormity of the site and its
challenging ethical and environmental contexts. There are few precedents
to such a problem, least of all in the realm of traditional arts and
design. Perhaps more crucially, this was a challenge to my new country of residence, the US- to face our own
demons, to ask public questions of new science (nuclear and genetic engineering), and to consider what
it might mean to build a monument to a mistake.
I proposed to plant a genetically modified form of vegetation on the
Yucca Mountain ridge. The yucca is a robust plant indigenous to the
Nevada desert. A cobalt blue avatar of this cactus would be planted
on a mile-long stretch of the mountain, forming a local, self-replicating
system. (It is possible to prevent this from spreading by treating the
soil as well...or not). This becomes a living warning sign- a landscape intervention,
a marker for other mutants buried below. The plant itself is a sign-
its genetic code will retain an embedded intent, recognisable
across future generations. The color blue is a marker for
this shift, at the deepest levels of plant life, of a new
Ground-level view of vegetation cover.
work deals with technological
anomalies, and points of continuity and rupture between "old"
and "new" forms of art-making. For links to press about the competition and the US government's actual plans for the site, visit the Desertspace website.