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“ALERT! Roads are still closed. Still investigating suspicious package @75/85. Northbound traffic is being diverted at North Ave and Southbound traffic off 17th St.” (photo via City of Atlanta Police Department/Facebook.)

The Atlanta Police Department shut down a major traffic artery in midtown on Monday after an art project by Georgia State University (GSU) students sparked a bomb scare.

The art device, a pinhole camera fashioned from a soda can and duct taped to the 14th Street bridge over interstates 75 and 85, was spotted by a passenger in a passing car just before 2pm on Monday. The man, who wished to remain anonymous lest drivers who were ensnared in the ensuing traffic jam seek revenge, immediately called 911. Atlanta Police deployed a bomb squad to the scene, and the tin can camera was exploded.

“I felt bad for the student, because this was his art project,” the man told local NBC affiliate 11Alive. “I hope he at least got an A.”

An example of a pinhole camera fashioned from a tin can (photo by denialpolez/Flickr) (click to enlarge)

The person who most likely won’t get a passing grade after this debacle is the unnamed GSU art professor in charge of the students who installed 18 pinhole cameras around the city as part of a photography assignment. Another of the class’s DIY cameras, this one affixed to a pedestrian bridge, caused a similar police operation in the south Atlanta suburb of Hapeville.

“They totally stopped all the traffic both ways,” local business proprietor Ardina Pierre told WSB-TV. “They even stopped the train.”

In a statement posted on Facebook, GSU apologized for the misunderstanding:

Georgia State University sincerely apologizes for the traffic problems resulting yesterday from the mounting of a student camera at the 14th Street Bridge. The camera was one of 18 used by students in an art project and deployed at various locations in the city. Georgia State Police are closely cooperating with the Atlanta Police Department in the removal of all of the cameras.

The Atlanta art bomb scare of 2015 joins a proud lineage of art projects that have set off similar police deployments, from Geoffrey McGann’s overly sculptural (and therefore suspect) watch to the two University of Washington art students who set up a detonator-like box beneath a Seattle bridge.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

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