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We Are Number One

ID Number: 4604
Maker: Mark Vallen; Shock Battalion
Technique: silkscreen
Date Made: 1984
Place Made: United States: California, Los Angeles
Measurements: 60.1 cm x 57.1 cm; 23 11/16 in x 22 1/2 in
Main Subject: Anti-Nuclear (Peace)
Materials: paper (fiber product)
Digitized: Y

Full Text:
we are number one [artist's signature in pencil] Vallen 84

Acquisition Number: 1992-099

Artist's Statement: Another anti-nuclear silkscreen print I created, We’re Number One, was printed in 1984. The title and theme of that work was inspired by a newspaper headline from the now defunct, Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Reporting on the intensifying nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the paper ran a banner headline that read, “U.S. plans to win nuclear war.” When I saw those words I pondered what “winning” a nuclear exchange with the Soviets would actually have meant? Major population centers in Europe obliterated, key cities in Russia and the U.S. reduced to nothing - resulting in the deaths of hundreds of millions of innocent civilians. The “winner” of course would inherit a smoldering wasteland of radioactive rubble. My print was never intended as an anti-American barb, but a forceful jab at those who thought a nuclear war winnable. The artwork depicted three deathly figures, two in radiation suits and one in military garb clutching a photo of a dead child from Hiroshima. The Day of the Dead inspired silkscreen was printed in a sickly radioactive green. We’re Number One was meant as a condemnation of people like T.K. Jones - a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense in the Reagan administration who infamously said Americans would survive atomic war with the Soviets “if there are enough shovels to go around.” Like other cold-war civil defense advocates at the time, Jones promoted the notion that once the missiles started flying one could dig a hole with a shovel; cover the trench with a door; pile dirt upon the makeshift bunker; and then wait in the hovel until the nuclear blasts subsided. Presupposing the “victory” of the U.S. in such an exchange, Americans would then rise from their foxholes to rebuild the country. The deadly and long lasting effects of radiation and the very real likelihood of a nuclear winter were never spoken of as being part of the scenario. Unfortunately, my print is still relevant today, as the characters from Doctor Strangelove keep popping up in the American political landscape. (Source:

Production Notes: Signed by artist

Copyright Status:
Copyright status unknown; may be protected by copyright law.

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