Maarten Vanden Eynde

The Gadget / Fat Man / Little Boy

Cotton lace, wooden bobbins, traditional straw cookie pillow, 60 x 60 x 5 cm.

The Gadget is the first atomic bomb ever made and it was detonated on Trinity site in Alamagordo, New Mexico, on July 16th 1945. Fat Man and Little Boy were the consequent atomic bombs and the first and only ones to be used during war, dropped in Japan on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. 

All three works are made with bobbin lace, a traditional Flemish textile art. The wooden bobbins are all different in form, shape and even different kinds of wood, symbolising the hands that helped build them. Some look like shells or bombs. They are still attached to the lace, making the bombs appear as an explosion.

The link between atomic bombs and bobbin lace is very real and historic. They are both made with raw materials (uranium and cotton) that changed the evolution of the world, and helped the United States become the most powerful nation on Earth.  And in both cases, Congo and Belgium were involved. 

The majority of the Uranium ore that was used for the Manhattan project to develop both The Gadget, Fat Man and Little Boy, came from the Shinkolobwe mine in D.R. Congo and was extracted by Edgar Sengier, a Belgian businessman and director of the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, and initially exported to Belgium for the extraction of radium. The cotton that was produced in the Southern States, was planted, harvested and processed by enslaved people, the majority coming from the Kingdom of Kongo. It was exported to England and Belgium were it was turned into fabric and lace for the bobbin lace industry. Although the works combine arguably the most feminine and innocent occupation with the most masculine and devastating one, they look like a perfect match.