Having explored in their later works the physical and psychological consequences of the aftermaths of the tsunami in Japan, the social impact of the shutdown of mines in Belgium, as well as the violence on the border between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran, in April 2016 Hamzehian and Mortarotti spent over a month in Alamogordo, New Mexico. They chose the place in the same way as geologists scrutinize the propagation of seismic waves to track them back to their source. Thus, Alamogordo becomes the epicenter, the starting point from which to address the issues in Most Were Silent: war and its consequences. In this sun-drenched, sluggish little town on the fringes of the Jornada del Muerto desert, nothing seems to conjure up the memory of war. Yet, this is the place where, in a secret military base, the atomic bomb was tested for the first time. The explosion took place on 16 July 1945 and nothing would be the same. “We knew the world would not be the same,” said Robert Oppenheimer, the physicists responsible for the development of the first atomic bomb. Later in that interview, he went on to recollect the reaction of his colleagues of the Manhattan Project, “A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent,” a recollection which inspired the title of this project. In this historical and geographic context, Alamogordo is the closest town to the place where the atomic era began, both in its destructive and in its deterrent power (Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the one hand and the cold war on the other). It is against the backdrop to such a momentous event that the artists reflect on the ancestral themes of human violence and historical memory.
Most Were Silent will be published by Skinnerboox fall 2018.
Bio — Anush Hamzehian and Vittorio Mortarotti are an artist duo. Over the last few years, they made projects involving political refugees, former miners, prostitutes, tsunami survivors and war veterans. Their video-photographic installations, exhibited among others at Maxxi (Rome), at the BlueProject Foundation (Barcelona) and at the Casino de Luxembourg, investigate the dynamics of memory and how History interferes with private fates. Their practice also includes publishing art books (The First Day of Good Weather was shortlisted for The First Book Award) and making documen- tary films (L’Académie de la Folie was awarded with the Étoile de la Scam). In 2018 they released Monsieur Kubota, a film on the search for immortality.