Kirsty Harris: A Foul and Awesome Display

31 Aug 2019 – 28 Sep 2019

Regular hours

12:00 – 17:00
12:00 – 17:00
12:00 – 17:00
12:00 – 17:00

Cost of entry


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England, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Nearest bus station: Gateshead Interchange
  • Nearest Metro station: Gateshead Metro
  • Nearest Railway station: Newcastle Central
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Harris’s paintings of nuclear bomb tests are vast and confrontational, depicting moments of manufactured violence that radically disrupt the landscape.


“I’m interested in the decisive moment, a meditation on a split second. That split second iconically represents our race to self-destruction. The beauty and awe of the landscape, the dust, the glow, the force of the explosion. The myths surrounding the characters in this master-plan to kill ourselves off. The fight for survival. We’ve shown ourselves THE END.”

In Charlie (2017) each square inch of linen represents 4 tons of TNT – which in turn is the unit of measurement that denotes the yield of the explosion.

A 1950s rotary telephone rings intermittently and when answered plays the audio piece Cold Call (How I Learned to Stop Worrying 1945-2019) (2019). The composition is a musical account of every officially recorded nuclear explosion. Each different instrument represents a country that partook. Each month in history lasts a second in time. Each note played depicts a single detonation. The piece passes through periods of relative calm building up through chaotic peaks of activity and back down again. Coding and electronics: Abbie Howell and James Allen.

Projections, unavoidable, relentlessly looping, fill the room with moments from films made by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. In The Victim (2016) a Yak-11 aircraft (potentially gifted to China by the USSR during a time of collaboration) twists and turns like a trapped animal – in the desolate landscape of the Lop Nur Desert. While ‘smiley faced’ equipment jolts up and down alongside a caged monkey, creating the feeling that the room itself is shaking.

The Apple (2016-19) is an instructional artwork, illuminated by a bare bulb from above, it commands you to eat the apple and take a printout from the stack. The Apple references the ‘Father of the Atomic Bomb’, JR Oppenheimer’s attempt to poison his lab tutor at Cambridge University.

In conjunction with the painting Charlie, in the publication entitled Completely er, unfolding itself (2019) Harris has transcribed the first official live television broadcast of an atomic explosion in 1952. The reporters struggle and grasp for the language to describe the mushroom cloud in front of them.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying (1945-2019) (2019) is available to buy as a 12-inch vinyl picture disc during the exhibition and 500 risograph exhibition posters have been made for the public to take.


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