Atomic Chrysalis by Maysam Al-Ani

Atomic Chrysalis Concept VisualThis project by digital media artist Maysam Al-Ani, specially commissioned for Start a Reaction, utilized an interactive Instagram AR filter to explore topics of metamorphosis and emergence, inspired by the symbols surrounding the narrative of nonproliferation. By marshaling the ubiquitous and often superficial medium of the “selfie” to the nuclear cause, Al-Ani presented a facetious and knowing commentary on the current state of nuclear discourse in popular culture. The filter placed its user into an animation depicting a cycle of nuclear death and florid rebirth, presenting a nuclear crisis that is at once poignant and accessible, individualized and — in the end — inescapably social.

Atomic Chrysalis debuted August 2 and ran for the duration of the Start a Reaction event at Henry Moore Nuclear Energy Sculpture Plaza.



Featured Symbols and their Meanings (in order of appearance):

War Plane Art

1. Airplane (Enola Gay)

Source: Britannica

This airplane is called the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that was used by the United States on August 6, 1945, to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, the first time the explosive device had been used on an enemy target.

At approximately 2:45 AM on August 6, 1945, a crew of 11 took off from Tinian Island carrying a uranium bomb that was known as “Little Boy.” At 8:15 AM, the bomb was released over Hiroshima. While some 1,900 feet above the city, Little Boy exploded, killing tens of thousands and causing widespread destruction.

Missile Art

2. Missile (Little Boy)

Source: Britannica

The untested uranium-235 gun-assembly bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, was airburst 580 meters above the city to maximize destruction; it was later estimated to yield 15 kilotons. Two-thirds of the city area was destroyed. The population present at the time was estimated at 350,000; of these, 140,000 died by the end of the year. 

Mushroom Cloud Art

3. Mushroom Cloud

The mushroom cloud rising over Hiroshima, Japan. The city of Hiroshima was the target of the world's first atomic bomb attack at 8:16 a.m. on August 6, 1945. The cloud rose to over 60,000 feet in about ten minutes.

About 30 seconds after the explosion, the Enola Gay circled in order to get a better look at what was happening. By that time, although the plane was flying at 30,000 feet, the mushroom cloud had risen above them. The city itself was completely engulfed in a thick black smoke.

Source: National Archives

Maggot Art

4. Maggots

Survivors (hibakusha) of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were victims of unimaginable injuries. By the time it was their turn to be treated by medical officers of the Marine Corps and nurses of the Red Cross, their wounds were covered by maggots.

Shinichi Uramoto, a hibakusha remembers:

“The body parts exposed to the atomic bomb were wounded. Their skin looked as though it was scooped out and was partly blackened. The severe burns were inflamed, purulent and infested with maggots with flies swarming around. Their ears and noses in particular were stuffed with maggots. The nurses had a hard time removing the maggots with pincers and covering the wound with sterilized gauze. Moreover, there were many who were pale and lethargic with no obvious injuries, but who died due to dehydration. Also there were people whose hair was falling out, their unrecognizable, pitiful figures lying about. Some moaned out with intense, intolerable pain. Some were whispering, sobbing, crying and asking for water in a sorrowful voice. The rooms were hot, stinking and in a terrible state that was hard to withstand. It was truly a hell on earth.”

Source: Asahi

Oleander Butterfly Art

5. Oleander Moth

The oleander moth (Syntomeida epilais) is one of the few invertebrates that is immune to the oleander flower’s toxins. The oleander moth is colored dark metallic blue with white polka-dots on the wings and upper abdomen, and the tip of the abdomen is bright red.

Oleander Flower Art

6. Oleander Flower

As the very first flower to bloom on the scorched earth of Hiroshima, where it was said that nothing would grow for 75 years, the oleander flower was a source of strength and hope for the residents of the city as they worked hard on recovery efforts. Blooming in the summertime, the oleander flowers reach their peak around the August 6 Peace Memorial Day, their beautiful blossoms reminding our citizens of a great many and profound feelings.