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New Thoughts On Old Things

[8] Cordelia Swann Desert Rose (1996)

"For part of my childhood, to recuperate from tuberculosis, I was taken to live in the idyllic mountains of northern Nevada, where the occasional nuclear cloud drifted north from the Test Site, sixty miles from the city of Las Vegas." So recalls Cordelia Swann. Her black and white tribute to Las Vegas' melancholic, radiated backdrop is beautiful for all that it does away with. All the close ups of shimmering flicking neon remind you of a Vegas from the 50s, before it went 'mega', and brash, and all Celine Dion. But there's also something else about the monochrome beyond nostalgia. The typical tourist back then would also come to witness the spectacular clouds of nuclear explosion taking place in the Nevada deserts. Cold War anxieties packaged as wholesome American mass-culture. War is the progenitor of global economies and technological developments that end up structuring the benign set design of our everyday lives. Desert Rose harks back to a more innocent - and simultaneously darker - time where the capacity of our mutual annihilation was both under and overestimated.

Shumon Basar is a co-founder of the London based curatorial/design group Newbetter, who, since 2002, have worked on a number of international exhibitions (such as Can Buildings Curate) and collaborations with artists, film-makers and urbanists. He is co-founder of the multi-disciplinary collective, sexymachinery, who make magazines, performances and exhibitions.
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