‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’
We knew the world would not be the same. Few people laughed, few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.
July 16th 1945: first ever nuclear device is detonated at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, USA. Three weeks later, on August 6th and 9th, the United States drops two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A total of 129.000-246.000 people were killed in the attacks (ref.) 70 years later the nuclear threat is far from extinct. What does it mean for humanity to possess a weapon so powerful that it could ultimately lead to total annihilation of the human race?
Since I’m currently producing an artwork for the exhibition ‘Nothing Will Grow Together Because Nothing Belongs Together’ at the former submarine base ‘Olavsvern’, a structure able to withstand nuclear blasts and built during the Cold War nuclear arms race era, I am deep-diving into post-World War II / Cold War dystopias on-screen. First one off is: Shôhei Imamura’s masterpiece Kuroi Ame/Black Rain (1988), a story of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, based on Masuji Ibuse’s novel. It can be found on Youtube (for now).
“Human beings learn nothing. They strangle themselves. Unjust peace is better than a war of justice. Why can’t they see?”
– Shigematsu Shizuma in ‘Black Rain’ (Shôhei Imamura, 1988).