Mary Kavanagh, Daughters of Uranium – Blake Fitzpatrick, Embodied Politics

[Summer 2020]

By Blake Fitzpatrick

Uranium is an unstable element. It breaks down over time – a very long time. Naturally occurring uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.468 billion years, meaning that it takes that amount of time for half of the uranium to transform into other elements in a radioactive decay chain. The elements in the decay chain are called “daughters of uranium,” and each daughter is the progeny of the “parent” isotope that precedes it. This most unstable and volatile family has been harnessed by the nuclear industry for both medical purposes and militaristic ones, such as atomic weapons (U-235 is a fissile isotope necessary to sustain a nuclear chain reaction). Metaphorically gendered, the “daughters of uranium” decay over time, releasing radioactivity into environmental and biological pathways in the present and for generations to come.

Artist Mary Kavanagh explores the legacies of nuclear culture in related exhibitions: the multi-faceted Daughters of Uranium and Trinity 3, a two-channel video work extracted from the larger project.1 The exhibitions reach across the nuclear Anthropocene to build connections between nuclear history and its lived effects, the nuclear site and irradiated bodies, nuclear reflection and material evidence…

See the magazine for the complete article and more images: Ciel variable 115 – THE MARCH OF THE WORLD


1 Mary Kavanagh, Daughters of Uranium, March 2, 2019–April 28, 2019 at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, and September 27, 2019–January 26, 2020 at Founders’ Gallery, the Military Museums, University of Calgary. Trinity 3, February 13, 2020–May 10, 2020 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener.