The “Divine Strake project” was an early warning system indicating to viewers the moment a nuclear weapon detonated on the Nevada Test Site. I worked with seismologists to tap a real-time seismic feed from the Nevada Test Site to the installation in San Francisco.  I installed a historic bell that robotically tolls according to earthquakes caused by nuclear weapons tests and latent seismic events, registering the exact moment of impact. The project was built in response to the impending 700 ton bomb test called “Divine Strake,” expected to blast radiated soil into the atmosphere and produce a mushroom cloud visible from Las Vegas, 65 miles away.  The project was made in the spirit of bringing us closer to events that are violent yet obscure, making the invisible present.

This image depicts the detonation of the first nuclear event on US soil, the “Trinity” Shot. The Divine Strake test was going to be the first nuclear scaled event since the ratification of the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). >>

Divine Strake was going to detonated on area 16, or Shoshone Mountain, believed by archeologists to be a Western Shoshone burial ground and site of shaman ritual and black magic. The Nevada Test Site, the nations foremost nuclear weapons testing ground was taken by eminent domain from the Western Shoshone in 1951. Since that time over 1000 high yield weapons tests have littered the desert landscape with 1000 foot wide subsidence craters, green glass and radiated soil. The sites of these tests remain radiated for over forty years >>

I borrowed a historic bell from Hastings College historic bell collection. The bell had been cast in the Meneely foundry from the alloy “gun metal.” The original Meneely foundry was the first production scale canon foundry providing munitions to the U.S. troops in the Revolutionary war. The Meneely foundry cast bells and canons from the same alloy.

This image shows the Divine Strake Project installed at CCA (California College of the Arts) in San Francisco in 2007. The seismically tolled bell acted as a beacon signaling ground motion and intensity at the Nevada Test Site in realtime >>

This image shows the project suspended from the truss in CCA’s main exhibition space >>

I collaborated with Glen Biasi, a seismologist from University of Nevada, Reno, Josh Stachnik, a seismologist from University of Wyoming, Jim Alitieri, a New York based musician and programmer and Steve Whitson, CCA’s network administrator, to  set up a livestream of ground motion data from the seismometers on the NTS to CCA. The realtime connection acted as a conduit connecting the two sites.

This image shows the aluminum truss holding four electromagnetic tollers that were set to seismic thresholds, when ground motion disturbed seismometers on the NTS the arrival moment and intensity was registered on the bell >>

This image shows the seismic thresholds assigned to each toller. The largest bottom toller was reserved for large scale events and nuclear weapons tests >>

Over the course of the installation the average day saw 60-90 small scale events and two large scale events that were in the moment magnitude range of weapons tests. These may have been any one of the numerous subcritical nuclear weapons tests that go on at the site frequently.

Special Thanks to:

BRTT – makers of the Real Time Seismic Monitoring Software, Antelope.
Glen Biasi, networked realtime data stream - University of Nevada, Reno.
Joshua Stachnik, programmed installation seismic software - University of Wyoming.
Hastings College, loaned the bell from their collection.
Jim Altieri, programmed the MAX patch which interpreted the seismic feed into bell tolling.