I SAW THE WORLD END
A New Digital Art work by Es Devlin and Machiko Weston
Commissioned by the Imperial War Museum
The work takes the form of a 45 meter wide illuminated ‘collective reading’, a strand of Es Devlin’s practice that originated in 2018 with The Order of Time, which gathered guests at BOLD Tendencies carpark, Peckham to read a glowing 35 metre wide text by theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli.
The text of I Saw the World End has been collated by Devlin and her long time collaborator Machiko Weston from a range of sources in Japanese and English.
Devlin and Weston have been sharing a studio for over 12 years, often exploring fictional apocalypses in drama and opera, but 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 two moments in time – the moments the atomic bombs landed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.