Friday, March 16, 2012

Cocking Your Ears and Your Guns

This is the only cockade that was left behind last Sunday.  At least the guy who made it was right on message.

When I was invited to join the other artists to work on the Battle Pass project, I was a little hesitant.  I am not a big Revolutionary War buff and, to be truthful, I find the whole subject almost painfully dull.  Fortunately, the other artists had no intention of getting their Revolutionary geek on in a re-enactment like way.  Like me, their interest in the subject was/is to use this particular battle (the Battle of Brooklyn) as a starting point for exploring contemporary issues regarding war.  Although some have been making a case that we have entered one of the most peaceful periods in human history, to this reluctant American, these times seem more bloody - and bloodthirsty- than ever.  We are only just out of an almost ten-year debacle in Iraq, still mired in Afghanistan, and amazingly, there are people beating the drum for a new war with Iran.

To me, war is a perfect example of how human beings can be, at once, so clever and so stupid.  Truly it can only be a powerful lack of imagination that allows us to choose this particularly barbaric means of (supposedly) solving our problems.

Back when the drum was being beaten to go to war with Iraq (remember those "focus groups" of many millions of people who were protesting?), I decided that I should make my artwork more of a forum for my feelings about what was happening politically, militarily and socially with regards to the war mongering I saw around me.  I had never overtly mixed art and politics but the times made it feel very urgent, so I gave it a shot.

What I came up with was to create a new character named Kay MacCarthy, played by me, who hosted her own DIY television show called The Well-Made Weapon.  In it, Kay taught home viewers how to make decorative weaponry from commonplace household materials.  Think:  transforming a round brie container and paper towel center into the drum and barrel of a Tommy Gun.  I videotaped a couple of episodes and then had Kay create several pieces that I brought to events (not in character) - mostly guns made from food such as jello, fudge, etc..  It never really amounted to much more than that.  I always hope to find an excuse to resurrect Kay and The Well-Made Weapon but it hasn't happened yet.

Battle Pass and making cockades seem related to Kay and her little-watched TV show.  Both projects point out how war becomes domesticated and ordinary on the home front.  People might want to decorate their home or dinner table with weapons, or they might want to create slogans on cockades and wear them around town.  When we accept war as a possible solution to our conflicts, we are accepting some of the very worst of human potential.  When we accept it so readily and allow it to be a normal part of our lives without too much fuss, then we are committing a grave mistake with consequences that can not be fathomed.

I do not want to accept that.  Do you?

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