The Evolution of Silence

The Evolution of Silence, launched 2013/ last update 2022

The Evolution of Silence
Multimedia research project by Rachele Riley, addressing the impact of nuclear testing at Yucca Flat at the Nevada Test Site.
Web-based map, interactive data-driven graphics, with sound and motion—HTML, CSS, jQuery.


Rachele Riley (design, research, concept, director)
Danniel Gaidula (technical consultant)

Official Honoree in NetArt, The Webby Awards (2014)
AIGA Philadelphia Design Awards (2017)

Funded in part through grants from the DigitalGlobe Foundation, The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, University of North Carolina Charlotte, and individual contributions made directly to the project via Hatchfund. Archival photos, maps, documents and artifacts are courtesy 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.

research & project description
The Evolution of Silence, Version 1 is a web-based map, which explores the impact of forty-one years of post-WWII nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site (a remote and highly-restricted area 80 miles north of Las Vegas, NV). The map focuses on Yucca Flat, an area within the Nevada Test Site, which is marked by hundreds of sinkhole craters caused by underground nuclear explosions.

As part of a series of explorations, the map presents a multivalent interpretation of the data of war and the dynamics of transformation. Layers to the project reveal disorienting views of the environment and of human involvement. The map visualizes the individual and accumulated location(s) of every nuclear detonation that occurred in Yucca Flat (828 total). The official data from the U.S. Department of Energy is connected to other kinds of data—my drawings, photos, videos, sounds, writings, etc. Fragments of satellite images (a grant from the DigitalGlobe Foundation) form a partially reconstructed aerial view of the valley floor, in which only the detonation sites are visualized. The viewer is able to break apart this composite image even further—by manually dragging the image tiles and actively rearranging and separating them from one another on screen. One is challenged through their own inquiry to make sense of the scale of violence that occurred and to conceptually reclaim this contested space through an experience of knowing. Bypassing government restrictions on the Nevada Test Site that limit its visual representation, the project allows anyone to engage aspects of this resilient landscape and to reflect on the toll of war.

Published by Actar Publishing, Ambiguous Territory Exhibition Catalog, 2022
Exhibition at Pratt Manhattan Gallery, Ambiguous Territory, New York, NY, 2018
Exhibition at Taubman Gallery, Ambiguous Territory, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, 2016
Exhibition at SIGGRAPH, Data Materialities, Vancouver, Canada, 2016
Exhibition at Weeks Gallery, Jamestown, NY, 2016
Presentation at Mapping Ephemeralities, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2015
Exhibition at SIGGRAPH, Art in Translation, Vancouver, Canada, 2014
Presentation at Praxis and Poetics, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK, 2013


project The Evolution of Silence—The Last Nuclear Bomb Memorial Proposal, 2021
Concept design drawing and proposal for an entangled non-linear trail through Yucca Flat (Nevada Test Site), a facet  of The Evolution of Silence project.