Artefact Development – Brain Explosion

After having watching Apocalypse Now three times, we can safely say as a group that it mainly focuses on the psychological effects of war. The characters journey up the Nung River and past the Cambodian boarder gradually gets darker and darker. The scenes get more violent and the characters gradually lose their minds. We decided upon an artefact idea after having researched into the effects of war on the human brain. This blog shows our process of making this artefact.

As a group, Yazz, Carla, James and I decided to make our artefact using clay as we knew we wanted to sculpt something quite detailed.

To start off Yazz made some detailed miniature models of a brain using polymer clay and plasticine.


I had sculpted a quick brain in Zbrush with the idea that we could have the spinal cord with other veins hanging down and forming at the bottom to represent an explosion.

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As the frontal lobe of the brain is the main area which is effected emotionally during war, we decided that this would be the main part of the brain to explode. After making our preliminary models minus the explosion aspect, we started to collect our materials and began creating.


We created the explosion by ripping up the frontal lobe area, we then used wire and chewing gum to create the ‘flesh-like’ look.


During the process of making the brain, James had made a start on the explosion. Here are a few images showing the outcome, before and after painting.


When looking at the finished product of the explosion, it really needed up being too large for the size of the brain and strayed off from the path it was meant to take. The brain looked out of place and instead of looking more like a mushroom cloud, it ended up just sitting on top of one. We decided to remove the brain and re-work the base to a more appropriate size. (Results below)

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Group member credits and links to blogs

Yazz Herron –

Carla Hutchinson –

James Goodwin –


The Why Files. (2017). Traumatic brain injury. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2017]. (2017). Cerebral Hemispheres. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2017].

Moulding our Inspiration

After deciding upon our idea we started to look into clay artists/sculptors who had worked on similar ideas. We came across a few artists whose styles were interesting. We hoped to take inspiration from their stylistic approach to clay work.

I looked into other artists who worked on sculpting explosions using clay. Below is an image from a sculptor named Dietrich Wenger who made a twenty-foot tall treehouse in the shape of a mushroom cloud. Wenger’s reasoning for creating this piece was to show contradictions between “two conflicting ideas”. This reminded me of what we were discussing in class about the implicit and explicit meanings in film, or any piece of art. In this piece the implicit meaning could be how war is like a play-zone for soldiers involved/or possibly how life goes on for the innocent suffering in war struck countries. The explicit meaning being that it is clearly a mushroom cloud explosion treehouse.


Other clay pieces which are a good source of inspiration when looking at ways to sculpt the explosion part of our artefact are shown in the slideshow below. We have thought that a rough look to the explosion would help show the texture instead of going for something completely smooth.

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Blazenhoff, R. (2017). Mushroom Cloud Playhouse. [online] Laughing Squid. Available at: [Accessed 27 Feb. 2017]. (2017). Pauline Lee. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Feb. 2017].

Suzie Zamit Sculpture. (2017). Suzie Zamit Sculpture. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Mar. 2017].

Effects of War on the Human Brain

From watching and studying Apocalypse Now I have been made more aware of how war had affected these soldiers mentally. As a group Yazz, Carla, James and I have decided to do some research into how war affects the mentality of soldiers. We had come up with a possible artefact idea which is heavily inspired by these effects.

Since our movie Apocalypse Now clearly exhibits the severe psychological effects of war on soldiers we thought it would be interesting to convey this in our artefact. What better way to convey psychosis than sculpting an exploding brain? Unfortunately we can’t have any explosive devices on campus so we had to settle for detonating only the areas of the human brain which are affected by war… through the use of clay, wire and other things not yet decided upon.

69fe9b95efa2b2e210e328b0824c8680Image Courtesy –

Research into the effects of PTSD and T.B.I on the brain

I read an article from The New York Times where they discussed how PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) wasn’t discovered in soldiers until the Vietnam war, despite the fact that hundreds of years before veteran’s had suffered the same disability. Post-war, PTSD was the most commonly diagnosed disorder among soldiers. Traumatic brain injury (T.B.I) is another disorder which was less commonly diagnosed  yet was more dominant in soldiers who suffered mentally post war.

anatomy-of-brainImage Courtesy –

When re-watching  Apocalypse Now and thinking into the character progression, we are not told of the back stories in great depth. We are left to assume that they have had many traumatic experiences during the Vietnam war yet we cannot decipher whether the quick decline of their sanity was due to repeated exposure to concussive force, emotional stress or drugs (or even all at once). It is difficult to say which started first.

The frontal lobe is the main area of the brain which deteriorates due to the effects of PTSD/T.B.I. Therefore for our artefact, the main area which will be destroyed/exploding will be the frontal lobe. We may also present bleeding of the brain in our artefact as T.B.I’s can sometimes cause this.

Blast in the Brain

Blasts that occur during war cause great damage in soldiers brains.  The key mechanical factors associated with brain injury include an increase in intracranial pressure and the brains motion relative to the skull. The overpressure from bombs affects the brain immediately upon impact with the skull.

new_blastImage Courtesy :

Broken Connections

The images below shows the breakdown of neural connections in the brain of a civilian victim who suffered from  severe traumatic brain injury. The healthy brain is shown at the top, the affected at the bottom.



Image Courtesy : national


War Is Brain-Damaging. (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].

Blast Force. (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].

About Brain Injury – Headway Cornwall. (2017). [online] Headway Cornwall. Available at: [Accessed 20 Feb. 2017].