For Reyes, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
“If you care about the environment, there will be no environment to save if a nuclear weapon goes off,” Reyes told Gothamist on the day “Zero Nukes” was erected. “Or if you care about social justice, there will be no society left after nuclear war.”
His sculpture’s stark black-and-white aesthetic leaves no doubt about his feelings regarding the over 12,000 nuclear warheads in the world today.
“I think that the goal should be full universal disarmament, like, get all of them,” said Reyes, whose oeuvre includes works that have destroyed incorporated weapons, most notably “Disarm” — a project in which revolvers and machine guns were crushed and rendered useless, then transformed into musical instruments.
This isn’t the first time New York City has played host to anti-nuclear protests. June will mark the 40th anniversary of the nuclear disarmament demonstration where as many as one million people gathered in Central Park. The 1982 rally took place around the time the United Nations held their Second Special Session on Disarmament.
But that kind of attention, explained the project’s curator, Pedro Alonzo, waned in the years that followed.
“That doesn’t happen anymore,” Alonzo said. “Very few people are involved. It’s very small now. We need to revitalize that. We need to get back into that. We need to rally around this cause.”
For Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the “Amnesia Atómica NYC” program is a chance to get critical conversations started in one of the busiest corners in the country. It’s a traveling exhibition; before arriving in New York, it was in Mexico City in 2020. In each city it heads to, local conversations and events will be programmed.
“What we’re trying to do is engage the public and give them ways to act, see how they can get engaged, talk to their leaders and our leaders to try to change the direction that we’re on,” Bronson said. “Because right now, we’re entering into an arms race 2.0. that everyone knows is dangerous and expensive, and really wasteful.”