The Atom in the garden and the apocalyptic fungi: a tale on a global nuclearscape (with artworks and bird-songs)

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In 1945, the image of the huge mushroom over the Trinity Site served to revive the millenarian idea of the total destruction of human life (and scientifically feasible). Some years later, the Atoms for Peace programme announced a high-modernist Eden whose abundance was provided through expertise, irradiated seeds and endless energy.

Closely attached to this techno-utopian programme, atomic tests all over the world continued to transform natural landscapes into new representations of an apocalyptic global landscape. The case of the Nevada Test Site (1952–1993) is an example of the extreme confluence of conflict, environment and technology. Amidst the nuclear US west, land artists developed their work, channelling latent feelings of political impotence, as they were not able to “capture” life – in the form of fungi or ephemeral desert flowers – surviving Armageddon. Anna Tsing has recently stated that fungi allow us to ask what manages to survive in the ruins technology has created. We could add that they also help us to think about how: mushrooms need a previous mutual-aid web of invisible filaments from which dead matter can become living matter again. This trans-disciplinarian chapter (which includes pictures, artworks, songs and songbirds) states that taking care of this “mycellium” (along with the art and techniques it can provide) is a pleasant duty when imagining (and creating) non-hierarchically based utopian landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGardens and Human Agency in the Anthropocene
EditorsMaria Paula Diogo, Ana Duarte Rodrigues, Ana Simões, Davide Scarso
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781351170246
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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