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Birth of atomic bomb explored through dance, art, poetry

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By Tris DeRoma

This Sunday will mark the 71st anniversary of the Trinity Test, the first test  of an actual nuclear weapon. The test took place in the Jornada Del Muerto Desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico.

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At Fuller Lodge this weekend, the birth of the atomic bomb will be remembered in an hour and a half, thought-provoking performance that will include poetry by former Los Alamos native Allison Cobb, art by Japanese artist Yukiyo Kawano and dance by Butoh dancer Meshi Chavez. Stephen Miller and Lisa DeGrace will be providing the music and visual effects.

The performance will actually center around the Aug. 9 bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, when the plutonium “Fat Man” bomb was dropped. Kawano created a replica of the Fat Man bomb from World War II era kimonos sewn together with Kawano’s hair. She has grandparents that survived the Hiroshima bombing on Aug. 6. The kimonos came from a shop owned by one of her grandmothers.

The event is sponsored in part by the LA History museum.

“When viewed together, the multiple perspectives from Los Alamos and Japan creates a more holistic history than what can be understood from only one point of view,” LA History Museum Director Judith Stauber said. 

When it’s over, the performers hope audience members will leave with a deeper understanding of the events that transcends its historical significance.

Called “Suspended Moment,” the five members have already taken the performance around the country, including another facility that had a hand in the Manhattan Project, the Hanford Site in Hanford Washington.

“We’re continually developing the piece,” Cobb said. “The piece we’ll perform is one we’ve created for Los Alamos.”
Their larger goal is to perform the piece at nuclear sites around the globe.

Cobb will be performing her poem “We Must Look,” which was taken from former President Barack Obama’s speech from when he laid a wreath in Hiroshima Japan last year in remembrance of the bombings, which took place Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945 in honor of the victims last year.

“For me, it’s about a woman from Los Alamos, a woman from Hiroshima in our generation 70 years later having a dialogue with each other, looking at each other, trying to understand each other and our shared history,” Cobb said.

“Then, trying to share that dialogue, that relationship and understanding with other people through art, so we can hopefully come to a greater understanding and connection where we will never have to be in a situation where we are using nuclear weapons again.”

Cobb’s father, Donald, previously worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“I’ve always been really interested and obsessed with the nuclear history,” Cobb said. “It’s very often been a topic in my poetry, I think it’s inevitable that, having come from Los Alamos, I would want to continue to engage with it and write about it.”

Cobb said her feelings about the issue are “complex.”

“I feel proud of being  from Los Alamos and the people that are there and all that they’ve accomplished,” Cobb said. “I also feel the grief and sorrow that some of those accomplishments have been so destructive and made the world so dangerous in so many ways.”

On Friday night, the Fuller Lodge Arts Center invites residents to stop by and help make Japanese style paper lanterns, which will be used in the performance.  The free class starts at 6 p.m.

Cobb and Kawano will be hosting the event. At the start of the class, Kawano will demonstrate how to make the lanterns, and create the Japanese symbols that will go on them.

Suspended Moment will take place from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., this Sunday at Fuller Lodge.

The lantern-making event is Friday, and will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Fuller Lodge Arts Center.
For more information, call the LA History Museum at 662-6272.