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The Bikini Line
The Bikini Line

In 1946 a total of 167 inhabitants of Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands were relocated by the US Government in order to carry out nuclear bomb testing in the area. A series of twenty-three nuclear devices were detonated over a twelve year period. The reef was contaminated beyond safety and only recently have a few intrepid diving companies established businesses on the atoll. The Bikinians and their descendants hope one day to be repatriated.

Also in 1946 a new swimwear garment hit the fashion scene. The press were quick to make connections and give a nickname to the revealing two-piece garment and its “explosive” effect on the public. They named it the “bikini”.

For several years artist Alan O’Cain cherished the concept of creating an art installation remembering the 167 Bikinians who were displaced and contrasting this with the 70th anniversary of the swimwear (July 2016). Now, thanks to the collaboration of Sound Artist Neil Crimes, Josephine Butler College Arts Development Group, St. Cuthbert’s Society students and Mike Hughes and staff at Durham University Botanic Garden that vision has become a reality.

This installation is on display in Durham Botanic Garden from June 16 to July 25, 2016. The first bomb landed at Bikini Atoll on July 1, 1946. A second bomb was dropped on July 25. Visitors are invited to reflect on these momentous events.

Fun, theatrical, educational, provocative, meditative: this sound-and-vision artwork is about storytelling: the story of what happened at Bikini Atoll and how the bikini got its name. It addresses universal issues connected with the concepts of home and identity, and with relocation. It asks questions about global conservation. It is a non-judgmental piece designed to provoke thought and puzzlement and to attract visitors by its unusual subject-matter. The Bikini Atoll story is presented on specially-designed postcards visitors can take away. The creation of the work involved Durham University students and plant experts from the Garden. The installation is an educational resource and entices new visitors into the space.


June 16, 2016 6-8pm: Installation Launch Event (by invitation only)

June 17, 2016 11am-3pm: Press Day (Garden and installation open to the public as usual)

June 17 – July 25, 2016: Installation in place, viewable as part of standard Garden admission. Garden open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm

Visit Durham Botanic Garden website.

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