Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Hiroshima: A Visual Record"

elin o'Hara slavick discusses her work in a recent Japan Focus article:

On August 6, 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb fueled by enriched uranium on the city of Hiroshima. 70,000 people died instantly. Another 70,000 died by the end of 1945 as a result of exposure to radiation and other related injuries. Scores of thousands would continue to die from the effects of the bomb over subsequent decades. Despite the fact that the U.S. is the only nation to have used atomic weapons against another nation, Americans have had little access to the visual record of those attacks. For decades the U.S. suppressed images of the bomb's effects on the residents of Hiroshima, and as recently as 1995, on the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing, the Smithsonian Institution cancelled its exhibition that would have revealed those effects and settled for the presentation of a single exhibit: the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.

For the victims, the situation is quite different. Hiroshima is now a City of Peace. Everywhere there are memorials to this catastrophic event that inaugurated the Atomic Age and monuments to the commitment to peace at the center of the Hiroshima response to war. A-bombed trees continue to grow and A-bombed buildings remain – marking history, trauma and survival. The city is dotted with clinics for the survivors and their special pathologies. Names are added each year to the registry of the dead as a result of the bomb. This registry is central to the large Peace Memorial Park that houses the Peace Memorial Museum, countless monuments, and a Hall of Remembrance, all situated in the heart of downtown Hiroshima. It has been over 60 years since the atomic bomb was dropped, but the A-bomb is everywhere in Hiroshima.

The enormity of Hiroshima challenges the artist, especially the American artist, in ethical and formal ways. For several years I worked on a series of anti-war drawings of places the United States has bombed, subsequently published as the book Bomb After Bomb: A Violent Cartography, (Charta, Milan, Italy, 2007), with a foreword by former U.S. air force bombardier and radical historian Howard Zinn. After making relatively abstract drawings from the bomber's aerial perspective that include no people – civilians, victims, soldiers or otherwise – I have now been on the ground, 60 years after the bomb was dropped, but still, on the ground. Hiroshima suddenly became real to me.

Read/see the whole article:

Meanwhile a recent article from Japan Today declares:

Poll in U.S. finds support for World War II atom bombings

A majority of Americans surveyed believe dropping atomic bombs on Japan during World War II was the right thing to do, but support was weaker among Democrats, women, younger voters and minority voters, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll found 61% of the more than 2,400 American voters questioned believe the U.S. did the right thing. Twenty-two percent called it wrong and 16% were undecided.

Read the whole article:

It seems more people need Hiroshima and Nagasaki to become real for them. I have been fortunate to visit memorials at both cities and it was moving to say the least. Seeing firsthand the magnitude of destruction, even decades later, brings an emotional response that cannot be lessoned by supposed logical arguments of justification or propaganda. The dropping of the bomb was wrong. Period.

elin o'Hara slavick's experiment of attempting to visualize the experience is important and commendable. Not all Americans will be able to travel to Hiroshima, but perhaps this work will give them a better idea of what went on. This is an experiment testing the powers of visual anthropology and its practical application for developing understanding among various peoples and world peace.

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