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Atomic Postcards: Radioactive Messages from the Cold War

Atomic Postcards: Radioactive Messages from the Cold War

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Atomic Postcards: Radioactive Messages from the Cold War

Lunghezza:
166 pagine
34 minuti
Pubblicato:
Apr 1, 2011
ISBN:
9781841505275
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Atomic postcards played an important role in creating and disseminating a public image of nuclear power. Presenting small-scale images of test explosions, power plants, fallout shelters, and long-range missiles, the cards were produced for mass audiences in China, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan and link the multilayered geographies of Atomic Age nationalism and tourism. From the unfailingly cheery slogans – 'Greetings from Los Alamos' – to blithe, handwritten notes and no-irony-intended 'Pray for Peace' postmarks, these postcards mailed from the edge of danger nonetheless maintain the upbeat language of their medium. With 150 reproductions of cards and handwritten messages dating from the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the end of the Cold War, Atomic Postcards offers a fascinating glimpse of a time when the end of the world seemed close at hand.
Pubblicato:
Apr 1, 2011
ISBN:
9781841505275
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

John OÆBrian is professor of art history at the University of British Columbia.

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Anteprima del libro

Atomic Postcards - John OBrian

POSTCARDS

First published in the UK in 2011 by

Intellect, The Mill, Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 3JG, UK

First published in the USA in 2011 by

Intellect, The University of Chicago Press, 1427 E.

60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

Copyright © 2011 Intellect Ltd

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission.

A catalogue record for this book is available

from the British Library.

Design: Mark Timmings

Typesetting: Holly Rose

ISBN 978-1-84150-246-5

Printed and bound by Cambrian Printers, Aberystwyth, Wales.

BY JOHN O’BRIAN AND JEREMY BORSOS

ATOMIC

POSTCARDS

Radioactive Messages from the Cold War

CONTENTS

RECTO | VERSO

JOHN O’BRIAN

THE POSTCARDS

CATALOGUE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

RECTO | VERSO

JOHN O’BRIAN

The title of a Chinese postcard from the 1980s, Ground-to-Ground Long-Range Missiles, is printed on the reverse side of the card. Like the titles given to most modern postcards it is matter-of-fact, but the photographic image on the front of the card is less straightforward. Taken from an elevated viewpoint high above street level, it depicts three nuclear missiles being wheeled through Beijing in a military parade. The missiles are in a horizontal position — un-cocked and functionally inert — and might almost be mistaken for giant pencil crayons, sharpened to a fine red point. They are pulled by trucks containing soldiers lined up in tight rows, a contrast to the uneven groupings of on-lookers at the top of the image. A wide crosswalk with zebra-stripes cuts underneath the trucks at right angles. The photographer responsible for the image, ZHOU Wan Ping, is concerned with the æsthetic elements of his composition as much as with the atomic hardware (capable of destroying cities) he has been commissioned to photograph. The painted bands around the missiles align precisely with the painted stripes of the crosswalk, and the white tires of the trucks rhyme visually with the white globes of the streetlight in the foreground.

The design of the streetlight pictured in Ground-to-Ground Long-Range Missiles reflects a Cold War fashion in furnishings and fixtures for atomic lighting. The trend received a major impetus from the Atomium, a colossal aluminum structure more than 100 meters high representing the revolving atoms of an iron crystal that was built for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. The Atomium quickly became an iconic tourist symbol. Images of it circulated internationally, many on postcards (p. 60), and it became a marker of Belgian national identity. The Atomium united the geography of tourism with the exigencies of nationalism under the sign of peaceful nuclear advancement, notably the technology of fissile-produced energy.

The Chinese card also links tourism and nationalism, but less in the name of peaceful advancement than of nuclear threat and deterrence. Soviet and American postcards during the Cold War period oscillated between the two positions; some promoted peace, others fire-power. Occasionally, they tried to promote both on the same card. The legend on an American postcard depicting a B-52H bomber in flight states that the aircraft is equipped with four GAM-87 nuclear missiles plus its regular bombs and concludes that it is the world’s most powerful weapon for peace (p. 117). The attempt to have it both ways is located in the last three words.

The atomic postcards collected in this book date from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the end of the Cold War in 1989. The majority are from the

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