Talk #30, 1/17/07


John Asmus

The genesis of laser divestment in art conservation descends from a 1942 event in Hollywood. Film actress Hedy Lamarr transformed the technology of DaDa performance artist George Antheil’s “Ballet Mecanique” into an advanced “secret” communications concept. Thereafter, she donated the resulting patent to the U.S. Navy. A first field test of Lamarr’s spread-spectrum/frequency-hopping scheme was conducted over the Pacific Ocean in 1958 during a high-altitude thermonuclear explosion. The concept for a nuclear-propelled spaceship (ORION) emerged in part from this Pacific Ocean test. The companion communications effort was transformed into a radiation-hydrodynamic modeling and holographic diagnostics program in support of the ORION propulsion-system development. With the acceptance of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1962) and the necessary termination of ORION, the ruby-laser holographic plasma diagnostics system found its way to Venice in order to produce archival holograms of deteriorating artistic and historic sculpture. At that time (1972) it was discovered that the radiation-ablation shockless-acceleration ORION mechanism could be employed for self-limiting divestment in art conservation. Hollywood patrons of “Friends of Venice” then sponsored a full-scale laser conservation demonstration (Porta della Carta, 1980) with an ironic outcome that the Venice Laser was required in California to restore the granite veneer of the patron’s Warner Studios Offices (1981).


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Summary of the Presentation