for images from bunker series click on image
for images from Cheyenne Mountain click on imagefor images from other locations click on imagefor los alamos slide show click on image



























Dark light was a practice lead photographic research project that focused on two contrasting military spaces; on the one hand the remainders of military defense structures from the Second World War and on the other contemporary military test areas in the deserts of the American West. These two sites could be seen to represent drastically different types of warfare; one a tangible threat linked to territorial invasion, the other a non-tangible, invisible threat of a war happening at a distance against an unidentified enemy. By bringing these two sites in relationship with one another the research brings the specificities of each space into focus.

 

The bunkers and blockhouses from WWII could be described as being physical incorporations of terror. Their monumentality acts as a demonstration of the power of the state by inducing a fear and reverence that atomise the individual, inducing them into the service of an ideological whole. Their current gradual re-assimilation into the environment becomes metaphoric for the failure of these structures in their defensive role. In contrast the military sites in the American West on the other hand through their very inaccessibility could be interpreted as incorporations of a spreading of fear based on an intangible enemy.

 

Press Release: ‘bunker series’, Photofusion, London

Like beached whales the blockhouses in Uta Kogelsberger’s photographs are washed up on the sand. Functionless, decaying, desolate they are reabsorbed into the landscape.

 

The bunkers were built on the beaches of Normandy and England as defensive structures in World War II. Manned with soldiers on the lookout for invaders, they are the 20th century equivalent of medieval fortresses or castles. But the structure has been reduced to a functional minimum – both threat and shelter.

 

Kogelsberger re-examines these buildings in her photographs. Taken at night with artificial lighting and long exposures she plays a game of hide and seek, catching these structures off-guard, exposing their inherent beauty as well as their ominously defunct and desolate status. In ‘Cap Gris Nez’, the bunker is rising out of the ground like the grizzly wreck of a ship, its looming façade echoed by the artificial cliffs on the beach. By contrast in ‘Pointe Du Hoc’, the blockhouse is showered by shooting stars instead of bombs, giving these desolate fireworks a sense of timeless beauty and serenity. Although the structures are metaphors of failure, their failure in itself gives rise to a sense of hope. The final battle in this war is being won by nature, and by contrast man’s endeavors seem rather petty and absurd.

 

Introduction to Cheyenne Mountain

Cheyenne Mountain is located on the southwest side of Colorado Springs and is home to the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and its Cheyenne Mountain Directorate, formerly known as the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC).

 

The underground Combat Operations Center at Cheyenne Mountain was originally intended to provide a 70% probability of continuing to function if a five-megaton nuclear weapon detonated three miles away, but was ultimately built to withstand a multi-megaton blast within 1.5 nautical miles. It was also designed to be self-sufficient for brief periods, have backup communications and television intercom with related commands, house personnel during an emergency, and protect staff against fallout and biological and chemical warfare.

 

The design of this facility makes it one of the most unusual installations in the world. Apart from the fact that it is housed 2,000 feet into the mountain, it is also notable in that it is a joint and bi-national military organization comprising over 200 men and women from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Canadian Forces.

 

In popular culture Cheyenne Mountain has provided inspiration for many cold-war movies. It is the home to the fictional ‘US Stargate Command’. In 1983 the film ‘Wargames’ partly referenced the setting of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. In the televison series Jeremiah, the main protagonist has encounters with a highly organized group of survivors based in the remains of NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain, who are attempting to unify the scattered communities of survivors in order to rebuild the world. Contrary to popular belief none of these productions have been shot on location.

 

Funding:

The project was funded by the AHRC, the University of Newcastle and supported by the Center of Land Use interpretation through an artist residency.

 

Venues:

‘Bunker series’, Photofusion, London

 

‘Uta Kogelsberger, recent work’, Evo Gallery, Santa Fe