Scott, Emily E.
- Master Thesis
Although often associated with blankness and vacancy, the desert West has been among the most heavily represented of postwar American landscapes. Along the way, it has accumulated a thick and complex layering of associations. While previously pictured as a pristine wilderness or rugged national frontier, in the 1940s and 1950s, mass media images of atomic tests coded the American desert West as a technological and apocalyptic space. In closely examining Life magazine drawings and photographs of the first explosion near Alamogordo, New Mexico, in 1945, as well as later tests on the Nevada Proving Ground, plus two popular atomic films – Split Second (1953) and Them! (1954), this master's thesis traces a historical shift in the cultural production, or signification, of “the desert.” Landscape is taken as a mediated category, a historical, metaphorical, visual, spatial, material, and ideological construct or practice. Specifically, this paper investigates the shifting relations between physical site and visual representation, or sight. How, it asks, does “the desert” operate in these images and films? How, in turn, is it produced or coded by them? Various constructions of the desert are considered: as primordial birthplace of atomic technology, indexical trace of the first explosion, dramatic visual staging ground, sanitized laboratory for repeated atomic tests, eerie projection of post-apocalypse, and contaminated site for mutation in science fiction. One motivation for returning to this moment, though beyond the scope of this thesis, is to begin untangling the subsequent proliferation of desert imagery in 1950s and 1960s media and art Show more
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PublisherUniversity of California
Organisational unit03588 - Ursprung, Philip
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