Twilight's Last Gleaming is a ceramic representation of the existing volumes of Plutonium-239, Uranium-235, and radioactive waste that has been generated by the United States' nuclear weapons industry.
In 1982 ceramic artist Barbara Donachy, with the help of some 70 volunteers, began production of Amber Waves of Grain Exhibit, a 34,000-piece clay replica of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. "The Boston Globe" called it a "visual tour de force, a shocking, almost numbing representation of a reality we tend to think of in abstractions."
The overwhelming public response to Amber Waves of Grain led to the creation of Twilight's Last Gleaming, an exhibit which invites you to consider two key questions: Why does the nuclear weapons industry continue to operate? And how will we deal responsibly with these lethal nuclear materials for thousands of years?
The display consists of thousands of cast ceramic discs modeled after the plutonium "buttons" processed at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant near Denver, Colorado. These discs represent the actual volume of plutonium available for nuclear warheads.
Imagine yourself having entered a blackened room. The floor is soft and fragrant, being covered with pine needles, aromatic wood chips and earth. Surrounding you on all sides are thousands of dimly glowing, greenish "discs" looking like lunar landscapes and about as wide as your outstretched hand. One is set aside for touching and picking up. It appears to weigh about as much as a one year old child. In the background you hear the sounds of wailing wolves and wind interspersed with the sporadic ticking a Geiger counter. As you exit into the light you are surrounded by another 15,000 of these discs, a bumpy, orderly repetitive landscape punctuated by one large silvery low dome.
Signs explain that the large dome, 16 feet in diameter, represents a solid volume of high level and transuranic nuclear waste, and if each of the 18,000 discs you are in the midst of were enlarged to that size, you would be seeing the entire volume this country has generated in the production of its nuclear warheads.
Twilight's Last Gleaming is available as a traveling exhibition for use by museums, organizations, schools, libraries, shopping malls, churches, open spaces. It needs a minimum of 3000 square feet of indoor or outdoor space.
Contact: Barbara Donachy at the Nuclear Arsenal Project, 2216 Race Street, Denver CO 80205, USA. tel: 303/377-7998
At some point or other if we survive, there's going to have to be a massive non-cooperation with our society which is producing death. . . . And if we are ever to break out of the militaristic society that we live in -- and that is what I think is our basic aim, because that's what distorting everything -- it's going to have to be through an across-the-board non-cooperation effort.
-- Dr. Rosalie Bertell, from "Quietly Eating Radioactivity", 1986
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