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David Maisel:
Proving Ground

CA+E Research Library and Archives | Floor 2

Photographer David Maisel’s archive of the Proving Ground project lends rare insight into his encounter with one of the most secretive of American military zones. The archive reveals the depth of his photographic and time-based media investigation of Dugway Proving Ground, a classified site covering nearly 800,000 acres in a remote region of Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert. From its inception during World War II to the present day, Dugway’s primary mission has been to develop and test chemical and biological weaponry and defense programs. After more than a decade of inquiry, Maisel was granted rare access to photograph the terrain, testing facilities, and other aspects of this deliberately obscured region of the American atlas. He photographed the site from both the air and the ground.

This body of work explores questions surrounding military power, national security, land use, and the limits of technology and human endeavor. Proving Ground is a critical response to the extraordinary formal and political aspects embedded at Dugway, in Maisel’s words, a “hidden, walled-off, and secret site that offers the opportunity to reflect on who and what we are collectively, as a society.”

Materials for this exhibition are drawn from David Maisel’s archive of the project held at the Center for Art + Environment.