As part of Jane and Louise Wilson’s curated room in History Is Now at the Hayward Gallery – ESPIONART’s current Exhibition of the Month – a black-and-white yardstick is placed alongside a large photograph of the interior of a dilapidated building. These objects form part of the artist duo’s recent commission by the National Trust to create a response to the “bizarre uniqueness” of Orford Ness National Nature Reserve on England’s Suffolk coast.
The title of their project, Blind Landing, is a reference to the Blind Landing Experimental Unit, established at the secretive site at the start of the Cold War. Within a series of distinctive ‘pagodas’ that remain dotted along the peninsula, the unit designed explosives and conducted secret military tests into nuclear weapons and human response to flight conditions. By placing a series of yardsticks throughout the recent ruins of the former laboratories, Jane and Louise Wilson intended to communicate to visitors the complex landscape and ecology as well as the historical significance of the site.
Since the end of the Cold War the site has been passed from the UK Ministry of Defence to the National Trust, to be preserved as a nature reserve. While the trust warns visitors that the debris-strewn site is wild, remote, bleak and unforgiving, it is also a dramatically beautiful location of unique ecological importance.
If you intend to visit, plan in advance. The site is only accessible by a short boat trip from Orford Quay, and there are a limited number of tickets available for purchase each day. The site is also only open on certain days of the week from early April through October.
Images: Top – Jane & Louise Wilson, Blind Landings (H-bomb Test Site, Orford Ness) Lab One # 2, 2013. Photo collage, 35.6 x 35.6 cm. Courtesy 303 Gallery; Bottom – Aerial view of the Orford Ness transmitting station. Courtesy Hohum. CC BY-SA 3.0