Bomb testing site used for art project

ONE of the landmark buildings on the National Trust's Orford Ness site is being used for an innovative art project.

Richard Smith

ONE of the landmark buildings on the National Trust's Orford Ness site is being used for an innovative art project.

A pagoda, which was once used for atomic bomb testing, has been given a brief new lease of life by artist Matthew Roberts.

He hopes that his Pagoda Project will give an added dimension to the visits to Orford Ness by people who are keen to know more about the redundant secret military testing site.


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His work involves a video projection inside a pagoda using a mixture of iconic military symbols from the years of military testing, the sea and the impact on the landscape.

The projection is designed to sculpt, interact and change the internal chamber using light.

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Mr Roberts said: ''It's the dynamic between the natural forces at Orford Ness, and the scars of past military intervention that is central to my artwork.

''On my first visit to Orford Ness I was moved by an isolated and exposed land mass of great sensual purity and intensity.

''It felt like stepping onto another planet surface, a gently undulating shingle desert with a sparse, but unique marine shore vegetation.

''This remote site is the perfect place to observe and record the interaction of sea tide, swell, and storm action on the shingle land form.

''The history of natural activity is visible through the ridge elevation, horizontal contour, shingle size and vegetation colonies.''

He added: ''I feel that it is pertinent that the very building built for atomic weapons testing can now be used to house a fresh and optimistic experiment which has regard for the natural location.''

The London-based artist said his imagination was also captured by the underground chamber inscribed with crosses which had a tomb-like quality.

The National Trust said: ''There are few visitors to Orford Ness who don't feel an immediate sense of atmosphere as they step off the ferry and on to this exceptional shingle spit on the Suffolk coast.

''Once a secret military testing site, it was the gently undulating shingle formations with the scarce and unusual linear vegetation tracts that Matthew felt was the perfect place to observe and record the sea and its effect on the land.''

Visitors can visit the project today, tomorrow and Saturday. They have to take a five-minute ferry which runs every 20 minutes from Orford Quay from 10am to 2pm, and take the return boat by 5pm. Further details are available from the National Trust office on 01394 450900.

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