Completed in early 2019, my experimental nonfiction short film “Grassland” has screened internationally in festival and microcinema spaces. It premiered in the Experiments in Cinema festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico before going on to the Twisted Oyster Film and Media Festival in Kefalia, Greece; Cineautopsia in Bogotá, Colombia; the Artists’ Forum Festival of the Moving Image in New York City; and, upcoming in 2020, the Black Maria Film Festival and Big Muddy Film Festival. The piece also picked up the Juror’s Citation at the Black Maria, Best Cinematography at the Artists’ Forum, and an honorable mention from the Los Angeles Experimental Forum. As an inter/extradisciplinary artist who only occasionally makes films, I’m deeply honored to have my work celebrated in these venues.
National TLC Service publications, brochures, and banners are on display as part of the reading room for Hot Spots: Radioactivity and the Landscape at the Krannert Art Museum, running from October 17, 2019 – March 21, 2020. The exhibition, originally curated by Joan Linder and Jennie Lamensdorf for the University at Buffalo, features work by Naomi Bebo, Jeremy Bolen, Michael Brill and Safdar Abidi, Edward Burtynsky, Erich Berger and Mari Keto, Ludovico Centis, Elizabeth Demaray, Nina Elder, Isao Hashimoto, Adele Henderson, Abbey Hepner, Eve Andrée Laramée, Cynthia Madansky and Angelika Brudniak, Amie Siegel, Robert del Tredici, Claudia X. Valdes, and Will Wilson.
For more information, see Krannert Art Museum News.
The experimental nonfiction film Grassland uses stop-motion animation, live action footage, text fragments, and expressive sound to excavate the stratigraphic layers of belief, ecology, practice, and geology that form a northeastern Colorado landscape. Carved out of decimated ranch lands during the Dust Bowl, the grassland is both a conservation zone and a working landscape. Cattle grazing, nuclear missiles, hydraulic fracturing, and wind power generation co-exist within a few miles of each other. Less explication than essay, the film locates the grassland in historic and geologic time, ranging over changing frameworks of law, ideology, and cosmology, variable and contradictory human practices, and the material and geological forces of the land itself. Meditative original footage of the grassland merges with collage animations created from diagrams, drawings, and found photography to portray the refuge’s subterranean activities, from well drilling to missile storage to soil sedimentation. The resulting nineteen-minute film is a poetic and unsettling portrait of a complex, evolving place.
Sarah Kanouse, “Grassland,” experimental nonfiction film, HD video, 19 minutes 15 second, 2019.
Sound design and mix by Jacob Ross
Nightingale Cinema, Chicago, IL, May 21
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, May 17
NW Film Center, Portland, May 14
Emerald Earth Film Festival, Eugene, May 13
Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles, April 11
Black Maria Film Festival 39th Annual Festival Tour, dates/locations TBA
Big Muddy Film Festival, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, February 2020
Artists’ Forum Festival of the Moving Image, New York, NY, October 18, 2019
Public Space One, Iowa City, September 30, 2019
Rhizome DC, Washington DC, October 12, 2019
Cineautopsia, Bogotá, Colombia, August 17, 2019.
Twisted Oyster Film and Media Festival, Kefalonia, Greece, May 9, 2019.
Experiments in Cinema, Albuquerque, April 18, 2019
Juror’s Citation, Black Maria Film Festival, Hoboken, NJ
Best Cinematography, Artists’ Forum Festival of the Moving Image, New York, NY
Honorable Mention, Experimental Forum, Los Angeles, CA.
The National TLC Service is participating in a group exhibition about the now-closed Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility just outside of Denver. Curated by Jeff Gipe, Facing Rocky Flats features works by local, national, and international artists and documentary photographers. The exhibition runs in the Canyon Gallery at the Boulder Public Library April 7-June 20, 2018 and travels to the Denver Public Library August 26-October 31, 2018. Jeff Gipe is preparing a book project that will also feature work from the exhibition.
Coverage of the exhibition:
Josh Schlossberg, Boulder Weekly, May 17, 2018
The Colorado Independent, August 26, 2018
Jeff Todd, CBS Local, August 27, 2018
The National TLC Service was also the subject of a published art history graduate thesis by Joseph Stussi, of the University of New Mexico. Entitled “Living with Our Toxic Legacy,” it appeared in the journal Hemispheres: Visual Cultures of the Americas, vol. 11, no. 1 (2018): 54-76.
“A People’s Atlas of the Nuclear United States” is a digital public humanities project that documents and interprets the relational geographies of nuclear materials used by the United States military. The Atlas is structured to articulate scalar relationships – from the planetary to the corporeal – and to simultaneously present cartographic, textual and image-based information in order to foster active interpretation on the part of its users.
The pilot phase of the online project focuses on the state of Colorado, which contains sites and processes representing all stages of the nuclear cycle. Through the initial geographic lens of Colorado, the Atlas seeks to infuse nuclear public policy and public memory discussions with humanistic forms of inquiry that address the materiality of nuclear production, political history, and environmental ethics. More than another clickable map, the Atlas articulates and interprets local embodied experiences, regional material-environmental politics, and their global and intergenerational consequences, thereby making visible what remains a hidden legacy not only of environmental devastation but also of community resilience.
The multiple functions of the Atlas are inherently interdisciplinary and call for collaboration among scholars, designers, digital humanists, and environmental and community organizations. Questions traditionally bound to specific disciplines are better answered using a broad set of lenses: How can geographical and historical inquiry into the nuclear weapons complex precipitate new insights into the relationships between location, security, harm, intervention, and public action? How can methods developed by geographers, artists, and digital humanists stimulate public memory work that is both more engaging and more nuanced? What forms of interactivity, interface, and representation allow stakeholders and scholars to collaboratively address the past and future of nuclear sites?
he project will use the Scalar publishing platform created by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture based at USC, with a custom interface design by Byse Studio. It is also supported organizationally by NuLab: The Center for Maps, Texts, and Networks at Northeastern University.
Download full project description as PDF: PeoplesAtlasProposal.pdf
Sarah Kanouse and Shiloh Krupar, A People’s Atlas of the Nuclear United States, in progress
The National Toxic Land/Labor Conservation Service is an art and research project taking the form of a wishful federal agency dedicated to the vigilant detection and continual exposition of the domestic effects of the American nuclear state. Established by fictive legislation in 2011, the Service is charged with developing cultural programs that address domestic issues of environmental justice, labor, and human rights related to U.S. military activities. Freely mixing satire and sincerity, we devise speculative projects using an aesthetic of bureaucratic camp. Our primary initiative is the creation of the speculative National Cold War Monuments and Environmental Heritage Trail. Additionally, we conduct tours, site visits, and reviews of Cold War heritage sites as they are currently interpreted, and we present widely on our organizational mission and activities.
Visit the National TLC Service Website for full documentation.
Official Agency Video
Performative Lecture (Excerpt)
Denver, CO – Denver Public Library, “Facing Rocky Flats,” August 26-October 31, 2018
Boulder, CO – Canyon Gallery, “Facing Rocky Flats,” April 27-June 10, 2018
Colorado Springs, CO – IDEA Space, “Atomic Landscapes,” March 21-May 7, 2016
Boston, MA – Proof Gallery, “Boston Does Boston 9,” January 23-February 20, 2016
Albuquerque, NM – Central Features, “Sarah Kanouse: Show Up Show Down,” February 6-12, 2015 (solo)
New York, NY – 41 Cooper Gallery, “Monument to Cold War Victory,” 2014
Champaign, IL – Figure One Gallery, “National TLC Service Mobile Field Office,” 2013
Davenport, IA – Figge Art Museum, “University of Iowa Faculty Biennial,” 2013
Fairfax, VA – George Mason University, “EcoCultures,” 2011
Brooklyn, NY – Momenta Arts, “Institute for Wishful Thinking,” 2011
Sarah Kanouse and Shiloh Krupar, “The National Toxic Land/Labor Conservation Service,” interdisciplinary arts/research platform, 2011-2016
Radiation Limit commemorates the human radiation experiments sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission from 1943 until at least 1974. The site-specific installation for the grounds around the Department of Energy, successor to the AEC, consists of plantings of spiderwort, a plant native to North America that is used to detect the presence of radiation, and contact microphones buried slightly underground and connected to mixer and low power FM transmitter. The highly sensitive contact microphones pick up soil movement around the spiderwort plants and the vibrations of passing footsteps and vehicles. The sounds are mixed together and broadcast via low power radio to the surrounding area. Viewers are provided with portable radios to detect the sonic activity, much as the original experimenters used Geiger counters and other instrumentation to measure exposure to otherwise invisible radiation.
During the Cold War, thousands of people were exposed to radiation in scientific experiments without proper informed consent. Many of these experiments were conducted on prisoners, semi-literate people, terminally ill patients, people of color, and the disabled. Some of the most significant universities and medical centers in the country conducted the studies for the Atomic Energy Commission as well as the Department of Defense, the CIA, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health. In all, the government funded some 4,000 radiation experiments prior to 1974, when rules were adopted to govern the treatment of human subjects in federally-sponsored research. In 1995, President Bill Clinton issued an official apology “to those of our citizens who were subjected to these experiments, to their families, and to their communities. We will no longer hide the truth from our citizens.”
Spiderwort is known as “nature’s radiation detector” because its stamens change color from blue to pink in the presence of radiation, according to independent studies at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Kyoto University. It has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans, who crushed the leaves to treat insect bites and brewed it into a tea to alleviate menstrual symptoms. The plant’s flower, shoots, and leaves are also edible. A close relative of sedges, lilies and other wetland species, spiderwort requires a semi-shaded, relatively damp location. As such, it is well-suited to rain gardens at the dripline of trees and near footpaths.
Download as PDF: Radiation Limit Poster
Champaign, IL – Krannert Art Museum, “Twenty Two Reviews,” a project by Bonnie Fortune
Sarah Kanouse, “Radiation Limit,” proposal for public memorial, 2010. Poster design by Becky Nasadowski.