Micro-cities, biospheres & ballistic missiles: Human Hand opens 6 June

Author: Steph McDonald, Communications Manager

An experimental micro-city, a biosphere to replicate life in outer space, and the largest intercontinental ballistic missile deployed by the US Air Force – three mesmerising places feature in Human Hand by Fiona Amundsen and Tim Corballis, opening at The Dowse on 6 June 2020.

Fiona Amundsen and Tim Corballis, production stills from Human Hand (Titan II), 2019-2020.

Fiona Amundsen and Tim Corballis, production stills from Human Hand (Titan II), 2019-2020.

Fiona Amundsen and Tim Corballis, Biosphere 2, working image from Human Hand, 2019-2020.

As part of Amundsen’s Fulbright Scholar Award, she and Corballis investigated three historically-laden sites in Arizona, USA: Arcosanti, an alternative 1970s micro-city; Biosphere 2, a closed structure built to demonstrate the viability of supporting human life in outer space; and the Titan Missile Museum, home of a Titan II Missile.


The resulting exhibition, Human Hand, combines film and photography from the sites, interviews with people who experienced them first-hand, including the woman who was in charge of turning the key to detonate the missile during the Cold War, historical footage, and readings by ecologist Joanna Macy.

Amundsen says that while the sites seem very different, they were all attempting to develop alternative ways of living together in a sprawling, urbanised and militarised world.

“They were all ultimately based on human relationships,” she says “Arcosanti is built by hand, and that sense of community is strong. Biosphere 2 is about humans working in partnership with technology to survive.”

“Even the Titan II Missile, which is a piece of extremely sophisticated weaponry, relied on humans co-sharing responsibility – it could only ever be detonated by two people at once.”

At the three sites, people have coped differently with the consequences of military capitalism—hoping either to build alternatives, to escape, or to live right at the heart of it.

Corballis, writer and lecturer at Victoria University, says the work underlines the influence of the military on our lives today.

“So much of life was created out of a desire to shelter from or to escape an impending nuclear bomb,” he says. “All three sites speak to a certain time, from the seventies to early nineties - they all reach out to the way people want to control the world or escape from the world.”

“Each site is trying to be a little world in itself. We were really surprised how the sites echoed each other aesthetically, despite being so different.”

Corballis says he hopes the work encourages people to listen to and witness the stories of the sites and their people, and see the caring attitude amid the more frightening aspects of the world.

“I hope it stays with people and infects their vision a little bit.”

Amundsen adds: “All you can do is be present to what’s unfolding in front of you on the screen, but also what’s unfolding inside of you.”

Amundsen, who has recently been selected for the Tokyo Biennale in June 2020, says the Fulbright scholarship “helped open doors” for this project.

“The recognition for a visual artist to receive the scholarship feels really important. I’m so grateful to have received it,” she says.

Human Hand: Fiona Amundsen & Tim Corballis opens Saturday 6 June 2020. Featuring Ingrid Horrocks, Sue Kirsch, Joanna Macy, and Yvonne Morris.

COVID-19: This exhibition was originally scheduled to open in April, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dowse reopened on 18 May 2020 at Alert Level 2, with extra hygiene precautions in place. Find out more here.

Two other exhibitions also open at The Dowse on 6 June: Ā Mua: New Lineages of Making, an exhibition exploring craft in Aotearoa, and The Group: Flying No Standard, which showcases the iconic legacy of The Group, 1927-1977, with works from The Dowse Collection.

For more information, interviews & images, contact:
Steph McDonald, Communications Manager – | 027 424 1716

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