Americana: Washington

What Lies Between the Twin Peaks
November 22, 2011 to December 05, 2011

What is the purpose of historical research if not to uncover new facts or to keep important discourse from slipping into obscurity? It is surprisingly not uncommon for Hollywood directors or television producers to uncover these hidden social and historical tropes—even if unintentionally.

Washington, the Evergreen State, is home to 31 federally protected wildernesses, 23 national wildlife refuges, a plethora of natural resources, and the highest density of environmental protection initiatives. The Olympic National Forest is one such destination for adventurers to escape the stresses of urban life.

This is perhaps why David Lynch chose Washington for the backdrop of his 1990 television series “Twin Peaks.” The show takes place in the idiosyncratic but quiet town of Twin Peaks—an idyllic image of America until the murder of Laura Palmer is discovered. This single event unravels the corruption and evil that existed behind the town’s manicured façade. In this way “Twin Peaks” became an entry point for an investigation into the “real” Washington.

Similarly, behind its picturesque landscape Washington was host to a dark moment in American history. Hanford Site, occupying 586 square miles of Benton County, produced the nation’s largest quantities of the state’s most dangerous resource—plutonium. As part of the Manhattan Project, Hanford Site provided the bulk of the plutonium that manufactured Fat Man and Little Boy—the atomic bombs that decimated Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 and brought the world into the Nuclear Age. The devastating irony is that the excavation of Washington’s cherished landscape and natural resources facilitated the complete destruction of Japan’s. The men and women, residents of Washington, who helped produce this dangerous substance, were largely kept in the dark about the ramifications of their labor.

The exhibition What Lies Between the Twin Peaks displays a scenic image of Washington obstructed by a barrier that one would find prohibiting entry into a nuclear radiation test site. The exhibition aims to bring this obscure relationship to light. It asks the viewer to remain vigilant and aware of what may really be happening behind any picturesque scene.

Erdan Sun

Return to Americana Homepage