Cases of Exposure | SWANS

Cases of Exposure

in the Projects Room



October 30 - December 8, 2023
Artist Talk & Panel:  Monday, October 30, 2023 @ 6PM
Opening Reception: Monday, October 30, 2023 @ 7-9PM

Download Exhibition Brochure (produced by Cal State San Marcos with essay by Cerritos College Art Gallery director/curator, James MacDevitt): CASES OF EXPOSURE (PDF)

The Cerritos College Art Gallery is thrilled to present CASES OF EXPOSURE, the debut exhibition of the recently-formed artist collective SWANS (Slow War Against the Nuclear State), consisting of the artists Nancy Buchanan, Judith Dancoff, Jane Chang Mi, Hillary Mushkin, Sheila Pinkel, elin o’Hara slavick, and Lucy HG Solomon (Cesar & Lois).

Both collectively and independently, these seven women artists explore personal, political, geographic, scientific, and militaristic conditions through an irradiated lens, focused on the nexus of violence and borders, the body and war, memory and history, nuclear power and ecosystems, and weapons and waste. The SWANS collective seeks to educate around these issues through exhibitions, publications, pop-up events, readings, collaborative projects, and film screenings. 

For their debut exhibition, CASES OF EXPOSURE, briefcases are the common denominator, highlighting the many ways these seemingly-innocuous bureaucratic devices serve as both symbols of the patriarchy and as literal tools of the military-industrial complex (with leaders carrying nuclear codes at all times, as well as scientists and researchers producing endless reports about the deadly effects of radiation and war) … And yet, nuclear weapons continue to proliferate and nuclear accidents continue to occur. The SWANS collective wants the world to reconsider its dependence on nuclear energy and our apocalyptic insistence on nuclear weapons. This exhibition is designed to snap viewers out of their complacent states of denial in the hope of (slowly, but surely) bringing about change.

While it might seem as if demonstrations against nuclear power, weapons, and war have largely disappeared since the end of the Cold War, in fact, each new disaster, near miss, or threat of nuclear war reinforces the fact that most people support a nuclear moratorium. Most notably, after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the anti-nuclear movement again reignited, led by Hibakusha (those exposed to radiation from the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki). This movement consists of people exposed to radiation from atomic bombs and nuclear tests, including those living downwind from nuclear sites and in proximity to uranium mines and waste storage. The legacy of well-over 2,000 nuclear weapon tests has had profound effects on this global Hibakusha community: premature death, excess disease, displacement, and contamination of ecosystems. Hundreds of thousands of tons of high-level waste have been left behind. The nuclear condition has remained topical and urgent since 1945, when the U.S. first dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 


Nancy Buchanan is a conceptual artist working in many forms; her performance works began in 1972, when she was a member of the infamous F Space Gallery in Santa Ana, CA; her earliest videotapes were recorded on open-reel Portapacks; and she also produces installations, drawings, and mixed-media work. She assisted activist Michael Zinzun with his cable access program Message to the Grassroots from 1988-1998 and traveled to Namibia to document that country’s independence from South Africa. Buchanan’s work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Centre Pompidou, and the Getty Research Institute (where her papers and video works are archived). Buchanan is the recipient of four National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist grants, a COLA grant, and a Rockefeller Fellowship in New Media. Her work was included in the 58th Carnegie International.

Judith Dancoff's work as a writer and filmmaker combines a strong lyric approach with a deep commitment to exploring the social and moral dilemmas of both the present and the past. Her short stories and literary non-fiction have appeared in the Georgia Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southern Humanities Review, the Shanghai Literary Review and elsewhere, and her awards include a recent Pushcart nomination as well as residencies at Hedgebrook, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, where she was the McElwee Family Fellow. As a filmmaker, her cinema verite documentary on the feminist artist Judy Chicago has screened at and is owned by hundreds of institutions in the United States and abroad, including the Whitney Museum's New American Filmmakers Series, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Her film Judy Chicago and the California Girls was recently screened at MOCA. She is currently at work on an autobiographical novel inspired by her father's work on the Manhattan Project, and his death from radiation-induced cancer when she was a child. She holds an MFA in writing from Warren Wilson College, and an MFA in filmmaking from UCLA. 

Jane Chang Mi is an artist and ocean engineer. Mi assesses the post-colonial ocean environment through interdisciplinary research. Mi most often focuses on the occupation and militarization of the Pacific Ocean by the United States. Specifically, her practice is centered around the topics of militourism—the creation and protection of tourist economies by military or paramilitary forces—and scientific colonization. This interest emerges from her background as an ocean engineer, a field that is inextricably linked to the American military complex. Mi was the inaugural artist in residence at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (2016), researching the pre-contact history of Pearl Harbor. The project concluded as a part of the first Honolulu Biennial (2017). Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at Santa Mònica in Barcelona, Spain (2022) and Te Uru Waitakere in Aotearoa (2019). She has been a scientist at the Arctic Circle Program (2010), a recipient of the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts grant (2014), and a fellow at the East West Center at the University of Hawaii, Manoa (2012).
Hillary Mushkin is an artist and a research professor of art and design at California Institute of Technology. Mushkin’s art and research are focused on the limits and power of human and technological observation. She is founder of Incendiary Traces, an art-and-research initiative to collaboratively reverse-engineer the politics of landscape visualization. She is also co-founder of Data to Discovery, a data visualization, art, and design group based at NASA/JPL, Caltech, and Art Center College of Design that engages co-design and visual practices to influence the production of scientific knowledge. Her work has been exhibited at the Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Freud Museum (London), nGbK (Berlin), and Ex Teresa Arte Actual Museum (Mexico City). Hillary Mushkin: Incendiary Traces was published by the Pomona College Museum of Art in 2017. Her collaborations with Data to Discovery have developed into tools to increase scientific understanding of Mars, the earth’s environment, and climate change.

Sheila Pinkel is an artist, activist and educator whose practice includes experimental light studies, photography, conceptual and graphic works, and public art. She first gained notice for cameraless photography in the 1970s that used light-sensitive emulsions and technologies to explore form. Her later, socially conscious art combines research, data visualization, and documentary photography, making critical and ethical inquiries into the military-industrial-complex and nuclear industry, consumption and incarceration patterns, and the effects of war on survivors. Pinkel has been awarded grants from the NEA and NEH. She has exhibited internationally, and her work belongs to public collections including LACMA, Centre Pompidou, Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Pinkel has written for journals, including, Leonardo, Afterimage, and Heresies.

elin o’Hara slavick is an artist, curator, critic, and activist. Her work has been widely exhibited, internationally. She is the author of Bomb After Bomb: A Violent Cartography (with a foreword by Howard Zinn), After Hiroshima (with an essay by James Elkins), Cameramouth (a chapbook of surrealist poetry), and Holding History in Our Hand (commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings). She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Prior to moving to Southern California, she held the position of Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for over 25 years. She is currently an Artist-in-Residence at the UC Irvine College of Health Sciences, having previously served as a visiting Artist-Fellow at Caltech during Spring of 2022.

Lucy HG Solomon works in the hybrid world of art, science and technology, making art that examines the relationship between ecosystems and societal systems. She inserts microbiology into human networks with Cesar & Lois, an art collective with Cesar Baio, and is co-founder and artist with the League of Imaginary Scientists. Her work has been exhibited globally, including throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America. As associate professor in the Department of Art, Media and Design at California State University San Marcos, she teaches at the intersection of media, data and the environment and directs DaTA Lab, a laboratory for research-based practice in data and transdisciplinary arts. Her subjects range from microbiological landscapes to manmade glaciers. Her art layers science with narrative. Creative work by the League of Imaginary Scientists has been anthologized in a book by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, entitled Social Practice at MOCA 2008-2012. The League was commissioned by Sundance to create The Social Cinema Machine (2017). Work by Cesar & Lois has been recognized with a Lumen Prize in Artificial Intelligence (2018) and was shortlisted for the International Competition for ICIA’s Prize in Intermedia Artwork (2018) and the NTU Global Digital Art Prize in Singapore (2019). Lucy HG Solomon is a Global Fulbright Scholar, with a collaborative art & science project that spans microbiological landscapes across the Arctic, Andes and Amazon.