A woman strolls down a city street, wearing a flowing turquoise dress and red shoes straight out of Oz. She’s happy, carefree and carrying a torch lily—which she proceeds to swing, with glee and the greatest of ease, into the window of a parked car.
This 1997 video installation, Ever Is Over All, by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, encapsulates the beauty, irony and transgression at the heart of “Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950,” now on view at the Hirshhorn Museum. The exhibition traces the theme of destruction in contemporary art from the early atomic age to the present. The show begins, aptly enough, with a bang: Harold Edgerton’s footage of nuclear detonations.
In the early 1950s, the MIT engineer filmed a series of atomic bomb tests for the U.S. government, projecting an indelible vision of humanity’s destruction.