‘Persistent Table of Elements’ is a series of poetic visualisations which compare the quantities of radioactive elements plutonium and uranium released in the infamous atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 with the lesser-known nuclear tests at Maralinga, South Australia between 1955 and 1963. Between 1957–1963, the British government conducted 13 major nuclear weapon tests on Australian territory, as well as hundreds of smaller ‘subcritical’ trials. The quantities of plutonium and uranium visualised here is just from one of the minor trials, known as the Vixen B tests, in 1960-63.

Despite being regarded as one of the best managed former nuclear test sites, recent surveys at Maralinga have revealed radioactive particles breaking down in the harsh, arid environment and releasing nanoparticles into the ecosystem. Of particular concern is these particles leaching into groundwater, which can be absorbed by plants and more easily inhaled or eaten by animals, including humans. Surprisingly few people know about the ongoing damage to the landscape caused by these tests.

Mushrooms are a visual analogy for nuclear explosions, but also a metaphor for the complexity of human interference in these landscapes: some mushrooms can absorb radioactive isotopes from soil, suggesting that even if humankind orchestrates a nuclear holocaust, the planet could regenerate without us.

This set of visualisation is a new iteration of the Endgame project, which I started in 2017. This ongoing series of visual experiments help me think through ways to communicate the dark history of nuclear testing in Australia, to avoid generational amnesia for the atrocities committed in this landscape by inspiring conversations about the persistent legacy of nuclear weapons testing.

‘Plutonium’ was included in the EcoArtSpace online exhibition The New Geologic Epoch and accompanying printed book in 2023:

The New Geologic Epoch presents work relating to or commenting on geological transformations in the land including commentary on previous works by Earth or Land artists. The works reference our evolution leading to the precarious situation we find ourselves in today with massive scarring of the planet’s surfaces due to mining and the impacts of the built environment with the development of dams, bridges, roads, and sprawling urban cities. Works include a wide range of media with drawings, watercolors, collage, textile, sculpture, ceramic, painting, photography, sound, video, film, installation, performative, and eco-remediation. 

The New Geologic Epoch captures the shifting baselines in the landscape, which over time have become the new normal.”