The story of the Radium Girls is just one episode in the realm of untold narratives about the human collateral damage resulting from technological advancements. Exploited female factory workers in cities throughout the U.S. in the 19-teens were exposed to radium—using it to paint watch dials—in a time when the element’s toxicity was unknown. Even when it was proven dangerous, workers were encouraged to continue on without protection, using their tongues to keep brush bristles organized. This resulted in an occupational hazard known as “Radium Jaw,” in which the women’s jaws would fall out of their heads. They fought (and lost) a long judicial battle over reparations for being poisoned with radium.
Our “radically advancing tour of exit signs” juxtaposes stories about the technology used to produce exit signs with facts and fiction about The Radium Girls. We have produced this project several times, using various modalities of interaction, including a face-to-face tour/performance, sound installation with directional speakers centrally located between four exit signs, and physical computing microprocessors. The tour begins with a historic account of absurd, DADAist “advance guards always advancing” and ends with a selfie photo opportunity where participants are encouraged to document their exit sign experience with #exitsigntour.
The Radium Girls: A Radically Advancing Tour of Exits Signs
A multi-modal art project, written and directed by Letícia Ferreira De Souza & xtine burrough
Sound Recording and Engineering by Frank Dufour
Gigantic THANK YOU to LabSynthE and The Gizmology Lab at UT Dallas.