The Propeller Group faced impossibly long odds from the outset of A Universe of Collisions. Inspired by a rare artifact from the American Civil War — opposing bullets, conjoined mid-air — the Vietnam-based collective encountered immense tactical challenges in trying to replicate it.
At the same time, the group was navigating an unfamiliar network of weapons enthusiasts; an elaborate permissions process involving the US Department of State; and a ticking clock on the tenure of Grand Arts, the project space that commissioned and produced A Universe of Collisions, which was preparing to close its doors for good.
At Chesapeake Testing, a ballistics research lab in northeast Maryland, The Propeller Group eventually succeeded in re-creating conditions for the unlikely collision. The artists re-imagined the artifact’s narrative, too, using a Soviet-designed AK-47 and an American-made M-16 to place it within the Cold War instead.
The poetics, meanwhile, remained the same: Enemy soldiers with lethal motives, collaborating by accident to make a single, extraordinary object.
After three years of development, the work saw its international debut in May 2015, chosen by artistic director Okwui Enwezor for All the World’s Futures, the central exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Gregory Volk, the curator and critic for Art In America, described the installation as “frightening and spectacular.”
A Universe of Collisions now marks the final exhibition of Grand Arts. The show opens on August 7 and remains on view through September 4, 2015.
For more information, visit grandarts.com.