The Manhattan Project was a significant event in history. Possibly the most significant. At the beginning of our project I was extremely doubtful of this declaration as I didn’t believe it could possibly be one of the most significant events of mankind. But as we work through the aspects of the project and looked at it through many angles I began to see it differently. As a class we explored conceptual art and visited two museums, looked at what makes something historically significant, and read Hiroshima by John Hersey. At the end of the project we had an exhibition to show our knowledge. I showed my conceptual art piece through the lens of science and technology.
To begin, as a class we each created the case for historical significance. As I am interested in science and technology I wrote my blog post on the significance of anesthesia and how is has changed medicine. As pain is one of the main things all humans have in common it is important that we can prevent it in already stressful situations. Medical and surgical procedures cause stress on the body and mind so having ways to prevent the pain and ease the mind makes it easier on the doctors, surgeons, nurses, patients, and families. To determine what makes something historically significant we used Partington’s Criteria which is the basic rules something has to fit into to be historically significant or not based on the definition.
Eventually we began reading Hiroshima by John Hersey. It is from a Japanese point of view that truly showed the damage the bomb had. What set this weapon apart from all other was the fact that it would effect the people and their lives for several generations. Unborn babies that were in the event would even have to suffer from side effects of radiation. I believe Hersey did an excellent job writing the book as the simplicity allowed everyone who could read it to be able to and have an understanding. And the readers at a higher level would be able to understand the allusions and the depth of the literary terms to enhance the story. Including the aftermath showed the lifelong damages to those who survived setting apart this unnatural power from the rest. We did Socratic Seminars as a class which are discussions on difficult pieces of the story. They go much deeper to understand why the wither may have chosen the pieces he did and then allow the readers to have a better understanding. In my learning portfolio after the Seminars I did a post to Critique the story. This allowed me to understand the event, reflect on the many important pieces of the story and state what I think could have added to the book. Reading Hiroshima was a very important part of the project as it put the event into perspective showing real life effects.
The class took a trip downtown Vancouver to the Vancouver Art Gallery and to the Contemporary Art Gallery. Exploring that part of downtown is very spectacular and many things are made to be art from the architecture to murals on the brick buildings and even sometimes the live music. Anything can be interpreted by art from one person if they want to. At the first stop we explored the ideas behind what different author were trying to show behind their pieces and how the viewers may interpret the art. I enjoyed reading about how the art came to be in the gallery and what the story behind each piece was. I struggled with the idea of conceptual art when it was first introduced in class as it was hard to see the idea behind the work and then also understand how it would come into a museum as “anyone could make it.” Once seeing more examples and then seeing Yoko Ono’s exhibition I began to really like conceptual art. Most art is simple. Maybe not in the way it was made built in the way that you can clearly see what is in front of you. It is not difficult to see a beautiful painting but to me it doesn’t make my brain work as a hard. As if it was arranged into a tableau for enjoyment. Seeing the conceptual art was like working on a puzzle with no photo to see what it was. To understand the meaning or even the choices was quite surreal. But as I watched the videos ands saw the kind of person Yoko was I understood some of the choices she had made. And how the simplicity of some if the pieces made them so beautiful. I spent a long time looking at the wish trees and reading the displayed cards. To me it really showed how you don’t know what people are going through and the battles they face in day to day life. Some of them were simple and would regard something people wanted or a copy of what Yoko had put. But some were incredibly sad and hard to read. All of the immersive pieces made the experience so memorable.
Near the beginning of the project we got to choose a category to use as our lens for the project. I chose Science and Technology from the groups but there was also Morals Ethics and Philosophy, Society and Culture, and Politics Conflict and Warfare. I like having these categories as many things can be seen through these different angles showing how they are positive and negative. I found that working as a team really opened my mind to a variety of different ideas. Some of the group saw the project as a whole and how it has changed science today while others focused on a small but very important part. For example Jordyn displayed the chain reaction of the invention of nuclear power and then showed how we have ‘the atom in our hands’ and Alex focused on the good vs bad when it comes to nuclear power. How radiation can save lives but also have terrible side effects on the human body. Without working in groups the thought behind the projects may not have been the same.
For my project I chose to show the relationship between the creation of the COVID-19 vaccine and the Manhattan Project creating the first nuclear weapon. The timeline and the significance of both of these events caught my attention. I was very fascinated with the amount of knowledge that was needed for both of these to happen and how they could have been done so fast. By having many people come together with different ideas and responsibilities the project and the vaccine were completed so quickly. The many scientists used their knowledge and statistics to determine the best possible route to take with both. Although the Manhattan project was secret there was still a huge number of people working on it, it was completed quickly. After the first bomb was dropped many other people around the world began working on their own weapons. If you compare the initial effects, the Manhattan Project was detrimental as it killed several thousands of people and left the city in ruins. Whereas the COVID-19 vaccine allowed people to return to a ‘new normal’. The new normal of going back to gyms, some social events, seeing more people, and returning to school with less restrictions. The bigger picture being that less people were hospitalized and lives are being saved. I found that the vaccine had a major effect on mental health let alone physical health as isolation for many people is very hard as we are social beings. Creating a direct comparison showing how everything can ‘fit together’ caught the attention of many people and allowed them to think deeper into both the Manhattan project and the vaccine creation.
Before this project started I knew extremely little on the Manhattan Project. I find that after the project I realized how much technology and different things I use today that may have stemmed from the Manhattan Project specifically and are all from past discoveries. Through school I have always learned a little history in science classes but I have never explored the entire concepts completely. I found that as we worked through history of the project I began looking at what different technology came from this. And how we are able to develop what we have in society exponentially as we now have the ability to share our knowledge in a very efficient way. The chain reaction is very interesting to me as if one thing goes differently the result would be entirely different. Maybe not initially but if you look at what happens several events down the line you can see the change. Going forward I hope to look more into history when I learn new information to figure out where it came from to build a better understanding.
With the newer idea of conceptual art I really struggled with how I would create the art. Most of my ideas were to ‘self explanatory’ and didn’t really fit into conceptual art. I then began trying to figure out ways to make the piece simpler so that the art still fit my idea but allowed other to have their own ideas on the piece. I am very interested in art and constantly draw and sometimes paint so the new mindset was hard to become accustomed to. By seeing many different art pieces in the exhibition I began to come up with my own ideas so I think by exposes myself to other conceptual art forms and ideas I would have been able to develop a concept easier. I also think that most conceptual artists make their work off an event they were part of or something that greatly effected them. As a student it is hard to make the art piece when you haven’t lived through the event to have a full understanding. That is why having the COVID comparison made the work easier. In the future I would spend more time looking at ways of expressing ideas to try something completely new. The exhibition was a completely new and exciting event for me and it was great to see everyones hard work on display.