Idea > Art

Hi again!!!

For our final unit of grade 11 PLP, we studied the Vietnam War and conceptual art. Two seemingly unconnected things, but as always our class finds a way to bring random things together in order to create interesting and in this case confusing projects.

This is the statement that drove this project was : “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” Meaning that it isn’t so much about the execution of the art but how in depth the process and thought is behind it.

Above are six examples of some of the most famous conceptual artworks in history, each one may not be necessarily considered “visual art”, but it is in fact art due to everything that has gone into it. If you’re still extremely sceptical about how these seemingly weird and pointless pieces could be called art when creations such as the Statue of David, the Mona Lisa, and the Sistine Chapel exist, then here’s a video that we watched when practically our entire class was questioning this exact thing.

On top of the task that is wrapping your head around conceptual art, we were simultaneously studying the Vietnam War at very great length. For a majority of this portion our teachers were spending what they described as the longest 10 days of their lives with the grade 10 PLP class driving around all of BC, so we were left to teach it to ourselves. Before they departed we were told we’d have an “exam” on the entirety of the war when they got back, of course we didn’t take that seriously… but boy were we wrong.

Now it wouldn’t be PLP without a grand finale to the unit, and this year it would tie into the year end exhibition as well.


In order to help us understand the war at a greater depth (no other way in PLP), our teachers divided up all of the events into 7 seperate themes. After furiously taking notes throughout the course of the unit, we had to choose a topic that we would later be basing our very own conceptual art piece off of.

As I had been studying I really developed an interest in the political stand point of the United States. There was lots about President Lyndon B. Johnson and how controversial some of his decsions were during the war, specifically sending in 50,000 more troops to South Vietnam instead of adapting to the war tactics of the Viet Cong.

As you now know, the idea is much more important than the execution when it comes to conceptual art, and with this in mind we had to develop our own in depth concept that we would base our projects on. I decided that I wanted to focus on the war tactics of the United States,  not specifically how they were fighting but how unwilling the US government was to change their tactics in order to fight the North Vietnamese.

“America did not experience a “lost victory” in Vietnam; in fact, victory was likely out of reach from the beginning.” (Boylan 2017)

Our exhibitons are always set up in gallery form, and our teachers really wanted to create an art gallery type of feel so our next task was to divide up all our very different projects into rooms. You’d think that we would be able to simply separate everyone by the theme that they chose, but surprisingly it wasn’t that easy. I ended up with Alex in the very last a room in the hallway so we didn’t have a lot of visitors 🙁

Hopefully you remember our last unit, the one that focused heavily on writing, well we were given another chance to showcase what we had learned. Since this was meant to have a gallery-esque feeling to it, we needed an artist statement that described our artwork and a historical paragraph that would give an explanation for the events on which we had based our work.

Analysts from the 1960’s and today agree that the United States should have changed their warfare tactics in order to beat the communists’s guerilla style. Even as American troops were pouring into South Vietnam during 1965, it was clear that they wouldn’t be fighting on their own teams and rather be grasping at the elusive enemy. Although, the South Vietnamese greatly outnumbered the communist army of the North, were far better supplied, and also had a considerable advantage in mobility due to transport planes and helicopters. However, strength isn’t everything, and where this force was brought down was their will to fight. Given this very evident weakness of the US’s ally, there was a very slim chance to win the war. Them winning the war would mean the United States being willing to fully mobilize its own national power and open up all arms of defense. This would mean raising taxes and giving into many other sacrifices that President Lyndon B. Johnson wouldn’t ask of the American people. Because of this, the tactical decisions made towards the war were treated the same as they were during World War One and Two. The US could get away with brute strength simply because that’s how their opponents were retaliating. If LBJ had been willing to take a different approach to the situation instead of relying on an already established force of bombing and a large soldier count that is only applicable in a very distinct type of battle, there might have been a higher survival rate of US troops and even another won war. Instead, it is very clear from a modern perspective that “America did not experience a “lost victory” in Vietnam; in fact, victory was likely out of reach from the beginning.” (Boylan 2017)
In this piece you’ll notice similarities, and that’s very much the point. Through this artwork I want to portray how unwilling the United States was to change their war tactics while fighting Northern Vietnam. On one end you’ll see my version of an MK-81 bomb (the most commonly used bomb by the US in this war), in good condition, and on the other you’ll see the same thing but very worn down. With each stepping stone leading you down to the broken bomb, you’re going along the decisions that Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) made to not alter their tactics. By believing they were the best and this was the ideal form of battle, they ended up beaten down, just like the now destroyed and communist stamped war tool. Along the side of each MK-81 I put four digits, representing the day – 28.07.65 – that LBJ made the decision to send in 50,000 more troops to Vietnam, increasing the draft to 35,000 people per month, all instead of changing his perspective of the situation and finding a way to adapt.

Overall, I would say that this was a great way to finish off the year. It gave us a chance to pull in the skills we have learned about worldview, ethical judgement, perspective, and of course allowing us to be as creative and quite honestly, as weird as we wanted to be. After doing a quick tour of the exhibition, I saw how truly in depth we went into our studies this term. Of course each project represented a different aspect of the Vietnam War, but if you got a good understanding of each one I believe you would have a fantastic explanation on the topic.

We might not always seem like the most artistic group in the world, and I can remember on several occasions where Ms. Willemse, and especially Mr. Hughes, have called us uncreative and boring so I’m hoping that by presenting our weird conceptual artwork that this has changed their view.

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