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Black Mist Burnt Country: Testing the Bomb Maralinga and Australian Art

  • This event finished on 30 October 2016

Black Mist Burnt Country: Testing the Bomb. Maralinga and Australian Art is a national touring exhibition of artworks by over 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists commemorating the British atomic test series in Australia. Sixty years after the events this exhibition revisits the history of the test program at places such as Maralinga, Emu and Montebello Island, through works across the mediums of painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, music and new media spanning seven decades.

Selected from public and private collections the exhibition features works by Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Jonathan Kumintjarra Brown, Hilda Moodoo, Yvonne Edwards, Ian Howard, Pam Debenham, Toni Robertson, Rosemary Laing, Judy Watson, Kate Shaw, Paul Ogier and others.

A variety of interactive elements will enable visitors to contemplate the impact of atomic testing in Australia on country and people. It places the Australian tests in the context of the wider history of the nuclear arms race and its contemporary realities.

An illustrated exhibition catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Essays by Elizabeth Tynan, Tilman Ruff, Mick Broderick and exhibition curator JD Mittmann will re-trace the history of the British atomic tests, survey responses through visual art and in popular culture, and consider health and policy implications.

The exhibition is curated by JD Mittmann, curator and manager of collections at Burrinja Dandenong Ranges Cultural Centre in Upwey, Victoria. The project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program and developed through the National Exhibition Touring Support (NETS) Victoria with the financial assistance of the Gordon Darling Foundation.


Larissa Romensky – Art exhibition to mark 60th anniversary of nuclear testing at Maralinga asks what has changed – ABC


Public Programs

Sunday, 25 September 3pm    The Atomic Bomb in Australian Art   Exhibition curator JD Mittmann gives an overview of artwork in the exhibition and provides an insight in the artistic responses to the use of the tomb bomb and the British atomic tests in Australia in the last seven decades

Tuesday, 27 September 4pm    Book launch: Elizabeth Tynan: Atomic Thunder – The Maralinga Story In 1950 Australian PM Robert Menzies blithely agreed to atomic tests in Australia and relinquished control over them. In this new book Journalist and academic Elizabeth Tynan reveals the devastating consequences of that decision, and how Maralinga has continued to be shrouded in mystery decades after the atomic thunder stopped rolling across the South Australian test site.

Saturday, 1 October 3pm Screening: Backs to the Blast  Harry Bardwell’s 1981 landmark documentary provides detailed history of the uranium and nuclear industry in South Australia from 1910 to 1980, incorporating rare archival footage and contemporary interviews about the effects of uranium and its products at Radium Hill, Port Pirie and the British atomic weapons test site at Maralinga. (52 mins)

Sunday, 2 October 3 pm Screening: Australian Atomic Confessions Compelling documentary, which tells the story the British atomic bomb tests in Australia in the 1950s, while Aboriginal elders, veterans and nuclear exper ts discuss Australia’s current nuclear ambitions. (50 mins, followed by Q&A with director Katherine Aigner)

Sunday, 9 October 3pm Artist talk: Kate Downhill: Implosion Kate Downhill’s paintings combine personal memories of her Cold War childhood with those of the popular culture of the Atomic Age. Kate’s father was one of the team of scientists at the Atomic Weapons Research Institute who designed and tested the British H bombs in the 1950s. Since migrating to Australia, Kate has been producing a body of ar tworks in which she explores and memorialises the effects of those nuclear tests.

Sunday, 16 October 3pm Artist panel: Arts and Politics with artists Prof Ian Howard, Rosemary Laing, Blak Douglas ExhibIting artists discuss their different approaches bringing difficult social, political and historical issues in the public arena through art.

Sunday, 23 October 3pm Artist talk: Merilyn Fairskye: The Polygon Merilyn Fairskye creates photo and video artworks that explore the relationship between technology, atomic landscapes and community. In recent years she has visited many nuclear sites around the world, including Sellafield in the UK, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the Ukraine, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, USA, and The Polygon Nuclear Test Site, Kazakhstan in 2015.