75 years ago, two nuclear weapons were detonated over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945. ‘I Saw the World End’ is a response to those precise moments of destruction from both a British and Japanese perspective.

Created by contemporary artist Es Devlin, working in collaboration with her long-term studio colleague Machiko Weston, this digital artwork has been specially commissioned by IWM.

I Saw The World End

Content warning: the following audio contains graphic language and first-hand accounts so discretion is advised.

I Saw The World End

Content warning: the following audio contains graphic language and first-hand accounts so discretion is advised.

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Creating I Saw The World End

Devlin and Weston have shared a studio for over 12 years, often exploring fictional apocalypses in drama and opera. This is their first investigation of the impact of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings on their respective cultures.

Locked down in separate studios, they carried out their research in separate languages.

Half of the text, read by Devlin in English, traces the origination of the atomic bomb in fiction by HG Wells, the account of the translation directly from fiction to physics by Leo Szilard, and the aspiration, rationale and rehearsal by the leading protagonists of the Manhattan project. This half of the text spans over 75 years.

The other half of the text is read in Japanese by Weston with simultaneous translation into English. The Japanese texts are all accounts of the two moments in time - the moments the atomic bombs landed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The screen-splitting line becomes the essence of the work, expressing the potential for division - splitting the screen, splitting the atom, the division between fiction and fact, race divisions, the division between humans and the planet.

To explore the sources used by the artists in the creation of the work, please see this source list. 

VOICES OF WAR

Photograph depicting the aftermath of the Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima.
© IWM MH 29447

VOICES OF WAR

‘I went up to the hillside and took a panorama view of the city and found the whole city on fire.’  Kiyoshi Tanimoto, Japanese Methodist minister.

Listen to first-hand testimonies from the perspectives of those who witnessed what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. 

Listen to Voices of War: Hiroshima >

Listen to Voices of War: Nagasaki >

‘I Saw the World End’ created by Es Devlin and Machiko Weston, and Voices of War form part of an IWM programme to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Victory 75 invites reflection on the momentous events that led to the culmination of the conflict and questions the fundamental concept of “victory” when it comes to war. Find out more