Artists Respond to the Neutron Bomb
Produced and Reported by Gail Pellett
Aired on: National Public Radio     Date: 1982

Myrna Packer & Art Bridgman

The largest anti-nuclear demonstration in U.S history took place in New York in the spring of 1982.  The catalyst for this outpouring of opposition to the nuclear arms race was recent news of the Neutron Bomb which was designed to kill millions of people without destroying buildings.  This fifteen minute sound portrait weaves music, effects and  interviews with a variety of artists, choreographers and poets who were part of that creative opposition.

by Joseph Nechvatel, graphite on paper


Interviews include the famous portrait painter, Alice Neel — then 82 —  and a new provocative young artist, Joseph Nechvatal,  choreographers Myrna Packer and Mel Wong – each doing very different work, poet and activist, June Jordan, along with a 16 yr old drama student and a young 9 year old poet.  It was aired on the new, at that time, Sunday Arts Journal, NPR, 1982.

Joseph Nechvatal believes his work is deep, reflective and thoughtful — all qualities and values he hopes to encourage. He believes this is such a big public issue and hopes that his work has had an impact.

Mel Wong

Mel Wong never thought of himself as a political artist yet he wants to do work that is strong in its message to make people mad and make them think.  For this project, he included a prologue before each of this dances contrasting the cold, calculating nature of the planners of such weaponry with the humanistic dance that follows.

Myrna Packer says this is the first time she has wanted to do work with political content, but she’s worried it will be too blatant. Their work is usually much more subtle.  Most of her work includes words and text so this is an opportunity to be more provocative.


June Jordan

June Jordan hits the issues more directly in her poetry, but with edge and humor…using some of the language from politicians and policy folk who are rationalizing this new weaponry.  “I try to lead people to more independent awareness.”

Alice Neel sees herself following the humanistic impulse as she insisted on staying with the human form while all of her peers moved to abstract expressionism.

Self-Portrait, Alice Neel
Breaking News

June Jordan, Alice Neel and Mel Wong have since passed on after rich and expansive careers touching many souls and minds. Joseph Nechvatel and Myrna Packer have continued with enormously productive careers and received much critical acclaim and recognition for their work. Both have integrated new media and computer technologies into their work and consequently have engaged with the interaction between technology and the human project.


One Response to “Artists Respond to the Neutron Bomb”

  1. Joseph Nechvatal says:

    Wonderful to reconnect to this time and issue. Great show Gail. I have kept pushing in this general direction. This link is to the pre-release HTML version of my new book “Immersion Into Noise.” Hope that you find it of interest.

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