Photo Essay: Multi-colored Mushroom Cloud Rises Adjacent to the Site of the Chicago Pile-1 Experiment

As a part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the first nuclear reaction, a pyrotechnic colorful mushroom cloud designed by artist Cai Guo-Qiang ascends from the roof of the Joseph Regenstein Library.

By Adam Thorp and Feng Ye

Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon

ARTS

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December 3, 2017

Cai Guo-Qiang's protechnic artwork shot up into the sky around 3:25 p.m. this Saturday, 75 years after the Chicago Pile-1 reaction. The artist told UChicago News, "In the 1990s, I used black gunpowder to create mushroom clouds, humankind’s most iconic visual symbol for the 20th century. These mushroom clouds formed part of my Projects for Extraterrestrials. Today, the color mushroom cloud symbolizes the paradoxical nature of employing nuclear energy: Who is it for?"

Simultaneously, a group of students lay silently in front of the Henry Moore sculpture as a flash performance, "It does not bring its own light," in an effort to make visible the often invisible physical and psychological effects of nuclear radiation.

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A crowd gathers around the site of the CP-1 experiment, waiting for Cai Guo-Qiang’s pyrotechnic artwork to rise.

Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon
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The crowd waits, listening to the tolling bells.

Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon
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The artwork starts with streaks of color shooting up into the sky.

Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon
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As patches of color slowly dissipate, a light gray mushroom cloud rises from the roof of Regenstein Library.

Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon
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Students lie silently by Henry Moore's Nuclear Energy sculpture as a flash performance, "It does not bring its own light," in an effort to make visible the often invisible physical and psychological effects of nuclear radiation.

Adam Thorp / The Chicago Maroon
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Fourth-year Athena Kern and second-year Jay Hoshina lie on the grass during the artwork. Kern held a collage of pictures of Eckhart Hall and the bombing of Nagasaki put together by her grandfather, who once worked on the bomb at the University.

Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon
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Students find shells with remaining paint on the ground in front of Regenstein Library.

Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon
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Shells could be found on the grass around Regenstein Library after the cloud had dissipated.

Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon