Wow, a whole week has rolled around without an intervening post – sorry team, that wasn’t mean to happen, but the Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium took over my focus late last week (from making works for Bilk Gallery in Canberra – more on that soon…) and the whole weekend, and what can I say, it was a CORKER! The best yet. If you’re ever in the area for the third weekend in October, you HAVE to head to it. And I can say this with unbiased hand to unbiased heart, as I’ve been off the organising committee a full two symposia now 😉
So, it’s Monday – gun day, part II.
I have a bunch of gun research that stretches back to 2012, which I’ve decided to start sharing, and lucky for y’all, this seems to be the obvious place. I’m not trying to trigger anyone, so if you’re not keen on following this line of thought, know that on Monday (Tuesday in some time-zones,) there will be posts generated as a result of my past and ongoing gun research.
The above images comes from a really interesting post that I first saw a couple of years ago, in 2015. I see it semi-regularly, as the post has been open in my web-browser since the day I came across it. I found it really arresting, but I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s so affecting, however, that I now count it amongst my always-open tabs (there are a random assortment of site alongside this, not just my mail client.) When I occasionally run across it, I’ll again scroll through to see what 33,636 guns looks like.
The author of this really unusual ‘article’, Matt Haughey writes; “According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013 all deaths due to firearms in the US amounted to 33,636 people.” He found a unique and very compelling way to visualise this, which proves really ‘sticky’ (you know what I mean?), at least to my brain.
In a not-so-happy coincidence, on the same day that many of us found out about the latest mass killing in the USA, I received the cheque for the sale of my Gun work to the University of Iowa Museum of Art.
So here’s a little about work, for which I began the research in December 2012, and finally finished the last part of about a year later, in early 2014.
The work Gun (a suite of three wearable pieces) is from the Escalation series. The works in Escalation are each made from domestic objects, taken out of their usual context and transformed into loaded jewels. Together the complete series reflects thousands of years of human history, the history we have of making weapons of war. The works (there is at least two wearable items for each ‘piece’) are loosely grouped into branches, based on the proximity to which the assailant would have to have to the victim (and vice versa) when used, which makes the whole Escalation project into a kind of family tree of tools for killing.
The Gun work is the Sword’s companion on one branch, as I see the gun as the successor to the sword in close combat situations. Rifles were the earliest effective firearms, so it was not a huge leap to use the Bushmaster XM15-E2S as my gun archetype. Sold as a hunting rifle in the USA, it is “a variant of the AR-15 first built by ArmaLite,”[i] “as an assault rifle for the United States armed forces.” (also known as the M16)[ii]. This Bushmaster is the weapon that was used for the Newtown massacre in 2012. If you see the whole series together, it becomes more obvious that this piece is the only one in my Escalation series that does not focus the wartime outcomes of a particular weapon. In making this exception, I wanted to make the point that these military grade weapons are available far too easily to the citizens of the US, and thus are in the homes and lives of ordinary people, which results in the premature deaths of this country’s most vulnerable citizens.
I made this piece from a strangely long and slightly medical-looking tray I bought new, at Daiso. I gave it 30 full-sized NATO shells (I chose there to depict the military round rather than the hunting round made by Remington), as 30 is the magazine’s capacity. I made 77 holes in the tray in the unfired bullet diameter, and strung the 77 cutouts on steel cable, which together add up to the 154 bullets expended within the school. The gun is made at 1:4 scale, making it very obvious to wear and more realistic than the miniature gun bling that is occasionally in fashion. The neckpiece with the 77 cutouts is 15m/40′ long, to represent, again at 1:4 scale (full scale being at least 60m/197′) the minimum distance that the shooter would have traversed inside of the school. I read the police report and literally plotted the shooter’s movements onto a floor plan of the school that I found online, to calculate the approximate length.
Finally, in all the pictures that accompany this series, I am wearing the works. They are photos I took of myself, by myself, and when these works are shown, they were a part of the display. It is important that the works, and the troubling histories that they represent, are on me. Like they are on all of humanity. And I for one am not at all happy about it.
[i] ‘AR-15’. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 26 April 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=AR-15&oldid=551188045.
I have to share this: Zadie Smith’s latest piece for The Guardian, What Beyoncé taught me. I’d like to explain my thoughts on it, but it would be a disservice to do more than quote:
The connection between writing and dancing has been much on my mind recently: it’s a channel I want to keep open. It feels a little neglected – compared to, say, the relationship between music and prose – maybe because there is something counter-intuitive about it. But for me the two forms are close to each other: I feel dance has something to tell me about what I do.
I’ve been thinking about writing quite a bit lately, as I struggle to make my writing and my work parallel one another for a few different fora. I’ve had occasion to write both proposals for new work as well as explanatory texts for pieces (and in some cases, both, in remarkably quick succession) and it’s been interesting to look back over ‘projections’ versus ‘justifications/explanations’. In more than one piece I worried that I talked a good game, but that the work wasn’t going to live up to the rhetoric. That remained in the back of my mind over separate making processes, and probably changed the outcomes in some way that I’m not yet able to put my finger on.
Meeting my own written expectations wasn’t something that I had worried about before; first of all because I didn’t think the writing was ever veering out of it’s lane by aiming for a poetic display that I would rather the work be in charge of, and secondly because I didn’t think I had a good enough handle on writing about my work in anything but as a kind of documentation.
But the works in my most recent exhibition changed many of my ways of working, including what was written and where the work needed the writing to support it. I don’t subscribe to the idea that an accompanying text is only necessary when the work fails to do all the talking, and thanks to Ben Lignel for reminding us that the British Museum (I think it was… I can’t find the article on AJF) was using words as an interpretive tool to help democratise access to the collection (ie, make it accessible to the burgeoning middle class) back in the 1800’s.
I do and don’t want to explain my work. I want it to do well in the world and so I am prepared to give it context, but I also think, like many others, that it exists because I can’t communicate what it does in any other fashion. To me, making is a form of communication outside written and spoken language, that has its own set of symbols (alphabet) and that makes connections that are not impeded by having to find the word or the flow of words to explain itself, and that it might even navigate inside of us without engaging with the conscious (and word-forming) part of the mind. But now I have recognised that being quite a language-y person, my penchant for writing and talking (my hobbies include calligraphy, for heavens sake) could have the potential to get in the way.
I’m not sure it will, (though perhaps it already has, what a mortifying thought!) and I don’t doubt that it has happened before, but I would hate for my words to set the scene for objects that don’t/can’t deliver. On the flip side, I’m starting to realise why so many artists don’t want to talk about their work.
Drew F Cameron (no relation, really, there’s a few more Camerons here than there were back home, I even met one on the phone last week…) is an ex US service-person, and he makes paper all over the US, with, among others, other ex-military personnel, out of their old uniforms. He kindly gifted me with some of the offcuts of his toil last year, and I used them to make art about war and its effects on the body – the body politic specifically – as in us, and all of humanity.
Suffice to say, his cause has my heart, and his need for a van (since his last one was recently stolen) has rallied the rest of my body to the cause. If you can help out, please do. I can vouch for the work that he does, and I hope to be able to meet him one day and tell him as much. And maybe even make some paper.
I’m just going to leave these here. They have inspired some thinking and some quite gung-ho shouts of “Author!” and “Hear, hear!” around these parts in the last set of twenty-four. Back soon with real other content.
It’s too late not to sound like a broken record, so here goes:
It’s the last week to see my exhibition at Bilk Gallery, and owing to the fabulous support shown to me and my work by the good people of Canberra, it’s the last time you will see this complete collection of work together anywhere! It closes on the 23rd of April, this Saturday.
The piece that its pictured in worn and unworn configurations, above, is one half of the Drone work.
The work is made from a steel tortilla pan sourced from Mexico City in 2014. The pan was cut down to 5mm x 5mm ’tiles’, each with a 0.8mm hole drilled into the centre. Then pieces were enamelled, in all about half of the over 1400 units. The enamelled and non-enamelled individual tiles are laid out in a sequence of ASCII characters that have been converted to binary. The encoded message for the Attempts to kill… piece reads:
“Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November .” S. Ackerman on US drone activity in Pakistan and Yemen, on theguardian.com
while the companion piece, made from the drone-shaped section excised from this work, spells out the name of that piece: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper UAV
“The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (formerly named Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remote controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems primarily for the United States Air Force… The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.”
 “General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, January 1, 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=General_Atomics_MQ-9_Reaper&oldid=639809793.
I’m currently involved in a beautiful online exhibition at the new Garland Magazine. My work has been featured along a slew of other poetic works by craft artists from all over, under the theme Intimate Immensities. The exhibition was curated by OliviaPintos–Lopez, one of the co-creators of the magazine.
I signed up as a supporter of the first edition of the magazine and received a hand-decorated copy hard copy (of my own choosing) of the feature essay, and thus the poised tonal painting of a ballerina by Serideh Karimi that adorns my cover has been displayed proudly in my dining room at the centre of the table since its arrival.
Garland has another open call, this time with the theme of Second Home, listed on their site right now if you are interested in getting involved. The deadline for entries of this juried exhibition close on the 22nd of February. The magazine itself features thoughtful articles by many different contributors, including several by artists.
If my writing is not to your taste (fair enough, you just come here for the links and images, I get it…) there’s a lovely little piece by our fearless leader, Ben Lignel, about what it’s like to calculate one specific aspect of his job. What can I say – I feel you Ben.
Melissa Cameron; frequently moving between GMT +11 (or sometimes +10), GMT +8, and today coming from GMT -8.
I recently wrote for AJF about The Ribbon Room, a mythical place here in Seattle that I’ve written about before. A few times in fact…
If you’re in Seattle, the window of Nancy’s Sewing Basket has one of Susan’s amazing garments on display at the moment. If you check it out be sure to wave toward the north, where I’ll be ensconced in my freezing but otherwise comfy hermit hole.. I mean, studio.