During the 1960s it got to be a cliché for artists to use (destructively) guns as the raw material for creative works. Inevitably, there was a tendentious “message” attached to these, expressing the hope that all guns would one day be melted or pounded or twisted into “art.”
I am pleased to report that the level of dialogue seems to have improved with an exhibition in London, Ont., called AKA Peace, organized by a former soldier. While serving in Afghanistan, Bran Symondson noticed that the locals colorfully decorated their AK-47s:
“We noticed they (Afghan police) would adorn their AK-47s with flowers, stickers, and I realized it was the only possession in their life really so it was a bit like a teenager would pimp up their car in the UK,” Symondson said.
Symondson got together a group of artists, issued them AKs (deactivated, we assume) and invited them to show their own takes on Kalashnikov decoration. There were the usual squeals from ninnies, but the former army man was unmoved.
“A lot of people say ‘am I scared of glorifying the AK-47?’ But I think the AK-47 is already glorified. I think the strongest message here is to show it can be used for something else visually and mentally,” he told Reuters at a preview.
Nancy Fouts’s “Don’t Touch,” for example was an AK-47 covered in silver-sprayed thorns that from a distance, look soft and furry. Another AK was “spin painted” in garish colors. Some artists of course, couldn’t resist the chance to propagandize, as in one piece that showed guns held by two toddlers whose noses had been turned into phalluses.
On the other hand, artist Charming Baker took a more philosophical approach.
“I don’t feel like I have this naive idea that a gun is just a weapon of destruction,” he said. “I’m sure there are guns here that have saved people’s lives and their families have been pleased about it. That’s the way you use any tool, isn’t it?
Just what we’ve been saying all along.