Orford Ness “Over The Horizon” (2004)
Field Recordings by Poulomi Desai
In the cold autumn of 2004, artist Poulomi Desai (Usurp Art) and Joe Banks (Disinformation) visited Orford Ness, a once top secret military testing base abandoned in the 1980s and now a protected nature reserve with a precious shingle eco-system. A series of large-scale photographs, field recordings and this video are among the artworks created by Poulomi Desai. The ghostly musical tones heard in this location recording are created by wind swirling across and through metal structures – no manipulation has been used.
A ferry crosses to this seemingly bleak spit of land that is both un-nerving and captivating. The contrast between feeling a sense of menace and yet delight at the tough wildness with spiky plants crawling over the remnants of dereliction was strange. The mood was eerie and the place was deserted. The architecture of the numerous buildings is steeped in secrecy and closure from the outside world. The conversation veered from details about the site’s past, reminiscence about Greenham Common and CND, and into sadness upon the impossible possibility of nuclear disarmament.
The title “Over The Horizon” refers to the 1968 top secret Anglo-American System 441A radar project, finally codenamed “Cobra Mist”. This cold war project was set up to carry out several missions, including detection and tracking of aircraft, detection of missile and satellite vehicle launchings, fulfilling intelligence requirements and providing a test bed for research and development. Orford Ness was used as a Ministry of Defence weapons and testing site from the beginning of the First World War to the mid 1980s, and was the site for testing Britain’s first atom bomb, the “Blue Danube”. The site was handed over to The National Trust in 1993 and is one of the largest naturally formed shingle spits in the world. © Poulomi Desai
“The war against death, dear Harry, is always a beautiful, noble, and wonderful, and glorious thing, and so, it follows, is the war against war. But it is always hopeless and quixotic too.” – Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf.