THREAT I: During the period of the Cold War over 50 Emergency Government Headquarters or nuclear fallout shelters were built throughout Canada. Popularly referred to as “Diefenbunkers”, the largest is that the one documented here in Carp Ontario, west of Ottawa built in 1959. Although Diefenbaker authorised its construction, which included a bedroom replete with a bedside photograph of his wife Olive, he never actually set foot in the bunker. Having recently been transformed into an ersatz cultural destination and designated a National Historic Site of Canada, the bunker’s aesthetic regime still manages to capture the chromatic forces of nuclear anxiety and even institutionalised panic that characterised much of the modern age. While most narratives of nuclear threat and first-strike capability have shifted their geo-political co-ordinates beyond the immediate shores of the Americas, the discourse still propels the lethal theories and violent events to which we have all borne recent witness.

On April 8th 1963, the minority-government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was overthrown by the electorate. A defeat preceded by two back-to-back no-confidence motions over his refusal to allow American nuclear warheads to be positioned on Canadian soil. While he had previously agreed to station US Bomarc anti-aircraft missiles here, Diefenbaker reneged when it was learned that they would be outfitted with nuclear warheads. This move resulted in the resignation of his Defence Minister Douglas Harkness with whom he frequently clashed. Harkness has previously condemned Diefenbaker’s hesitation to put Canadian troops on high alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 and even defied the Prime Minister by secretly agreeing to Kennedy's request a full three days before Diefenbaker officially relented. His ousting from political power in 1963 is oft referred to by historians as “The Canadian Coup” because the Kennedy administration is known to have played an active role in slandering Diefenbaker’s image and engineering his electoral collapse—hence the “ugly” Newsweek cover and article.

Produced for the Front-by-Front exhibition at Museum London, Canada curated by Casabdra Getty, 2011-12.