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OAKLAND, Calif. — We’ve all seen the moment in movies when the hero, villain, or unwitting victim has to stare down the barrel of a gun. Depending on how the filmmaker wants us to perceive the character, she or he responds with fear, anger, nonchalance or a lightning quick disarming. Regardless of the response of the person on the other end, the moment is designed to be a tense one, and it forces those of us who’ve never had that experience to ask ourselves, “How would I respond?”
I’ve recently come across the work of Peter Andrew, a Toronto-based artist who meticulously photographs guns from the barrel side and prints them out at massive scale, as large as 4×8 feet. Titled the Point Blank Project, Andrew’s efforts could certainly be read as a political statement, especially in light of the rash of mass shootings in the United States in recent months, but the artist suggests otherwise:
“I’m not saying guns are good or bad in this project. What I am saying is that guns can be interesting to look at from a technical and visual perspective,” Andrew says.
Indeed, the detail that Andrew brings to guns is a rare one in media. Even in films that glorify the mechanics of gun assembly (think of every sniper movie ever), we rarely get that kind of close-up view of the bumps and contours of the object itself.
It calls to mind an Adrian Piper piece featured in Creative Time Reports in August that placed a faded image of Trayvon Martin in the crosshairs. “Imagine what it was like to be me”, the work declares, while the piece puts us squarely in the perspective of the shooter. Piper’s work creates the kind of tension one experiences in film, but by being tied to a recent event in American history, it heightens an ordinarily fictional experience into a pertinent and personal one.
Gun disarmament is another theme I’ve seen in art recently. There’s Mexican artist Pedro Reyes’s Imagine series, a collection of discarded weapons re-imagined as musical instruments. “This is also a call to action,” he wrote in his blog about the pieces, “since we cannot stop the violence only at the place where the weapons are being used, but also where they are made.” And it’s hard not to see the winking satire in Japanese artist Tsuyoshi Ozawa’s series of women wielding guns made of vegetables. These images reflect the potential beauty of guns as aesthetic rather than destructive objects.
The gun debate in the United States is a complex one, wrapped up in a long history of arms bearing so important to the country that it’s enshrined in the Constitution and regularly explored in Hollywood films. For every argument in favor of a gun-free society, there’s an argument to be made about how guns have a role to play not just in defense, but hunting and recreation as well. Lincoln Clarke’s portraits of women in Texas with their guns gets at this a bit; it’s a simple series that is memorable, perhaps, because of how it breaks apart one stereotype (that guns are a guy thing) while reinforcing another (that Texans love guns). It creates complexity in a debate that can often seem black and white.
I think part of what makes Andrew’s work more interesting than it initially appears (this is more a speculation than a value judgment, as I’ve not seen the piece in person to experience the full effect). His images put us both in the shoes of the target and the handler. It’s not just victims who stare down the barrel of a gun; gun owners do the same thing when they clean it. As the debate in the United States continues, I hope we see more art that grapples with the many sides and perspectives of this incredibly important and difficult issue.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
Works by Rodolfo Abularach, Mario Bencomo, Denise Carvalho, Pérez Celis, Entes, and Agustín Fernandéz are on view at the NYC gallery through January 7, 2022.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
“Ecosystem X,” an art-based reimagining of life on planet Earth, is the theme of this open call. 10 artists will win $5,000 and one student will receive $5,000 as a scholarship/stipend.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.