About: The Evolution of Silence, Version 1

The Evolution of Silence is a multimedia design research project by Rachele Riley (2008–present). As part of a series of explorations on the subject of conflict and representation, Version 1 is a web-based map, which visualizes and interprets the impact of forty-one years of post-WWII nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site, a remote and highly-restricted area roughly 80 miles north of Las Vegas, NV. The project focuses on every individual nuclear detonation that occurred in Yucca Flat, an area within the Nevada Test Site, which is marked by hundreds of sinkhole craters caused by these underground nuclear explosions.

above: The Evolution of Silence, version 1, on view at SIGGRAPH 2014, Art Gallery, ‘Acting in Translation’ (curated by Basak Senova). Vancouver, Canada. August 2014.

above [Click images to see larger]: Web screenshots from The Evolution of Silence, version 1, © Rachele Riley, 2008–2015/16.

Through an experimental and methodical approach to making archival and marginal data visible and palpable, ‘The Evolution of Silence’ combines fact and interpretation into a multivalent investigation of the dynamics of conflict, transformation of landscape, and the human element. By mapping the individual location of every nuclear detonation that occurred inYucca Flat, the project extends the official data of the Department of Energy by connecting spatial data with other attribute data. Developing a poetic approach to design language, coding, mapping, and imaging, the project further expands upon what is known or can be known about this damaged place.

Fragments of satellite images form a partially reconstructed aerial view of the valley floor. One is able to break the larger composite image apart, and is free to rearrange or separate the individual nuclear sites from one another. In this way, the viewer is challenged to make sense of the scale of what happened, and to confront the malleability and authority of data as it relates to memory, war, reconciliation, and place. Through this aspect of viewer participation, one is conceptually involved in reclaiming this contested landscape and in effectively dismantling what Susan Sontag calls,’the aggregate image of war’—by confronting the scale of ‘war’s murderousness.’ (Sontag, S. Regarding the Pain of Others, 2003)


Art, Design, Research: Rachele Riley
Technical Consultant: Danniel Gaidula

Archival photos, maps, documents and artifacts are courtesy of the DigitalGlobe Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, United States Geological Survey, National Nuclear Security Administration, Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, Las Vegas News Bureau, Cahlan Research Library (Nevada State Museum), Special Collections Library at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Nuclear Testing Archive, National Atomic Testing Museum, National Archives, and Library of Congress.


The Evolution of Silence was recognized as an Official Honoree in NetArt by The 18th Annual Webby Awards (2014).



SIGGRAPH Art Gallery Exhibition, Acting in Translation, curated by Basak Senova. Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada, August 2014.

Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, in conjunction with Praxis and Poetics: Research Through Design Conference Exhibition, Gateshead, UK, September 2013.


Included in Studies in Material Thinking, Special Issue: Visual/Textual. Vol. 13 September, 2015.

Included in Leonardo Journal Vol. 47, Issue 4, 2014. Special Siggraph Issue.


SIGGRAPH 2014 Art Gallery Talks, August 12, 2014 (Vancouver, Canada)

Moore College of Art and Design, September 24, 2013 (Philadelphia, PA)

Praxis and Poetics: Research Through Design, September 4, 2013 (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England)

Texas State University San Marcos, April 13, 2013 (San Marcos, TX)

AICAD Symposium on Research ‘Remaking Research: Emerging Research Practices in Art and Design,’ November 2, 2012 (Vancouver, Canada)

DesignInquiry DesignCity: Berlin, August 6–11, 2012 (Berlin, Germany) Research presented/workshop led: ‘Design Interpretations of Conflict.’

DesignInquiry ‘Make/Do’, June 9–13, 2011 (Vinalhaven, ME) Workshop and Presentation: ‘Framing War.’

College Art Association, February 11, 2010 (Chicago, IL), ‘Designed Accidents: The Collapse of Knowledge and Nuclear Testing’

College Art Association/Artspace, February 25, 2009 (Los Angeles, CA)


This project has been made possible in part with grants from:
DigitalGlobe Foundation
University of the Arts in Philadelphia
University of North Carolina Charlotte
Hatchfund (USA Projects) Open Match Fund

Special thanks to all who contributed to the funding of my project, and especially to my Hatchfund supporters:
Richard Felton
Lisa M. C. Joven
Jerome Cloud
Hans-Ulrich Allemann
Erin Riley
Nonie Kimpitak
Paul Riley
Patrycja Doniewski
Mildred Riley
Marjorie Halstead
Maria McVarish
JoAnne R. Baron
Thomas Balsley
Bonnie Willett-Goad
Stacie Goffin
Mark Jamra
Elizabeth Craig
Ron Johnson
Sean Riley
Je Seok Koo
John Connolly
Laurence Bach
Maia Wright
Christine Zelinsky
Tina Thuermer
Gabrielle Esperdy
Afua Brown
Jan C. Almquist
Sara Abraham
Miriam Simun
Margaret Urban
Tulin Acikalin
Anna Bühler
Jason Dilworth
Janet Williams
Joshua Singer
Andrea Weissenbuehler
Virginia Faircloth
Lindsey Culpepper
Eleanor J. Edgett
Bizhan Khodabandeh
Teresa Ilnicki
C.J. Hawn
Debby and John Hanrahan
Warren Lehrer
Semi Ryu
Marcie Paper
Sandra Maxa
Kaitlin Gehshan
Jennifer Sudul-Edwards
Derek Coté
Alex Wagaman
Joseph Poccia
Ben Kuyper

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