Monday, July 30, 1945. Harry S. Truman would handwrite a note addressing the Manhattan Project. After years of hard work and billions of dollars spent, the US would decide to drop a new weapon code-named “little boy” in the days following. The first of its kind, using fission to split the atom. And on the 6th of August, precisely a week after the decision, Hiroshima was bombed. Introducing the first atomic bomb.

What followed were the most significant days in human history. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were torn to pieces as if they were sandcastles battling against the ocean’s tides. The world was presented to a ‘bellwether’ in warfare. The technology would spread in coming years, and advances would turn the entire earth into a possible war zone.

Truman stated, “He didn’t want to have to do it, but he felt that he had to, to stop the war and to save both American and Japanese lives.” He had no way of telling the events that would result, but if he did, would he change his mind. However, when you look into it more, you can’t help but wonder, what if? What if Leo Szilard never fled Germany? What if a nuclear chain reaction wasn’t possible? What if the invasion was chosen instead of the bombing?

Choices. Our lives revolve around them. Sometimes changing the course of history, which Angelo and I captured in our VR experience, ‘the button.’ 

Placed in a room with nothing but two buttons and the text “The fate of the war is in your hands,” you are given a choice and have to live with it —replicating Truman’s position. The room signified helplessness — both physically and emotionally — forcing you between two buttons, putting you in a dilemma. In the invasion path, each grave shown is 10,000 deaths caused by the result of the battle (1 million total deaths). In the course of the bomb, you are transported into a plane flying over Hiroshima and view the consequence of your decision to drop the bomb. Experiencing your choice was vital in our process because when making a decision, people often detach themselves from the conflict. However, truly visiting your choice gives a new light to how you should react.

The straightforward task of choosing a button unfolds into a demanding process that leaves you feeling bad both ways. Showing the weaknesses of one person deciding the fate of the world, we hope people realize the power should be held amongst a group of people considering all factors. And this doesn’t just relate to nukes but all aspects of world-changing jobs.

Our art highlights that there was no correct choice — both having a significant loss. Any hubris is stripped away from the viewer, challenging the viewer to think deeply about their choice and whether it was the right decision. People are short-sighted in realizing consequences, so fewer deaths in the short term will always be more satisfactory. It’s the burden placed upon them that will show how people react to mass death. And ends with the question, are you happy with your choice after going through the different paths

“Should the possibility of destroying the world rest in the hands of one person? Moreover, should the fate of the entire human race be hostage to the politics of one country?”

Taking inspiration from my critical analysis of the book Hiroshima, I focused on the truth of the suffering and how the reader needs to take meaning away from it. The book reveals the reality that people do not want to see, and like the book, our art challenges previous knowledge and removes the clouded truths. Showing the other side you would otherwise not think about, asking questions like what is justifiable? How does the perception change over time? And why do we still care about this to this day?

Spacing in all artwork is crucial, but conceptual art takes that point and runs with it. While visiting the  Vancouver Art Museum and Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery, it showed how the surrounding space around the art was a part of the experience, adding to the meaning. The combination of positive and negative space builds upon the piece and elevates it. One-piece stuck out to me in particular; ‘Ancestor Gesture.’ The art is placed in a corner presenting the viewers with the outside of a house but walking behind unveils an intricate design representing a different aspect. I wanted to replicate this by having a seemingly empty room except for two buttons, once pressed, transporting you ‘behind the house’; an authentic look at the bombing.

Teamwork between Angelo and I took a heavy task by creating a VR experience through a game experience. We built off each other and took up responsibilities readily. When one person had trouble, the other switched onto that part. Problems are always going to occur but having two people thinking of solutions makes the production much faster. We used our strengths to combat each other’s weaknesses.  

The process of creating the art from scratch took over 20+ hours each. We, of course, didn’t refine every little bug with the short timeline, but every main component was in place to represent the concept. The choice presented is a lovely homage to the trolley problem in the context of the manhattan project. Doing this again, I would further polish the look of the experience and add little details that show effort was put into them.

School is not required anymore. Of course, most people are driven by the prospect of living lavishly or expected by their parents. However, learning is what you take away from it. You have presented the education — it’s how you find helpful information. Yes, you will be forced to take tests that you don’t want to, but the little knowledge that sticks will be with you for the rest of your life.

The premise of conceptual art is a carbon copy of this idea. A concrete block with a swing encased within does not mean anything until you put meaning in it. It represents dysfunction. 

“Elevated to the dignity of a work of art  by the mere choice of an artist.”

And it’s this quote that makes conceptual art even more interesting. Conceptual art is art in which the idea behind it takes precedence. Good art is timeless and eternal. The movement started in the 1960s; it is still strong today and adopted into a traditional art style.

I am not going to deny that I still have a bias on conceptual, but it is a critical look that challenges. Art is a medium to share an idea, like a book and a movie, but that has to be thoughtfully expressed and merit an audience. All art can be conceptual, but it is when an artist says there is meaning that it becomes art. Conceptual art can still be beautiful and awe-inspiring, but when it looks like effort has been put into it at all, I can not praise its meaning. When an art piece is engaging while having a more critical purpose behind it, that is what I enjoy about conceptual art.

But as the VR experience and the year as a whole comes to an end, it still leaves you with what was the correct option, and that’s up to you.