A series of x-rays. Bright white spots record exposure of the film to pieces of trinitite by Gabriel Martinez. Named after “Trinity” — the site of the first atomic weapon detonation in 1945 near Alamogordo, New Mexico — trinitite is created when an atomic bomb explodes over gypsum sands, fusing the granules into a radioactive glass. Gabriel Martinez’s grandmother collected the trinitite after the blast.
The images reference a mysterious series of spots that appeared in batches of x-rays in 1945. It was later discovered that radioactive fallout from nuclear test on July 16 had entered the water system in Ohio. This water supplied the paper mill that provided pulp for cardboard boxes of x-ray film made by Eastman Kodak. The spots on the x-rays became an accidental record of the scale of the fallout zone of the first nuclear test.
Accompanying the x-ray images, a video by Martinez presents the childhood recollections of Henry Herrera — one of the few civilians who witnessed the explosion and the mushroom cloud of the “Trinity” bomb. Henry is a “Downwinder.” The name refers to someone who lived under the fallout clouds of test detonations of atomic bombs. Henry is one of the few remaining members of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders. The film concludes with Henry playing his guitar — upbeat motifs belie the truth that he plays this song at funerals for members of the Downwinder community.
With support from the Brown Arts Initiative
Originally commissioned and produced by Artpace, San Antonio.
About the artist
Born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, Gabriel Martinez works with and within communities, often revealing difficult and hidden histories of conflict and social injustice. Having called many places home — with significant periods in Washington, D.C. and New York — Martinez is now based in Houston, Texas where he has been an artist-in-residence at Project Row Houses, a CORE Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and where he now leads the experimental art space Alabama Song near the Museum District.