“Remnants of the Human Condition”
The Human Condition: "the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of our Human existence… including birth, growth, conflict, mortality, religion, philosophy, history, and sociology.”
What sums us up as individuals, groups, and nations of today? If we turn to the news for answers, we are bombarded with terrorism, school violence, police brutality, the war in the middle east, homeland security and mass shooting sprees. The list seems to never end. Is this the true state of humanity or have we all fallen prey to the scare tactics of the media; manipulated into fear instead of choosing human intellect?
I knew I could no longer pretend the news and the global fear based reactions of our society were not becoming an overwhelming influence on me. When I started my career twenty years ago, I was a sculptor. There was something authentic about using my hands to translate what I was feeling inside. In an attempt to tap back into something pure again, I went to a scrapyard looking for metal to begin a new body of work to hopefully express everything that was taking place in the world around me. While digging through the tons of discarded steel, I came across a bucket of AK-47 bullet shells. My first thought was… “What is a bucket of assault rifle bullets doing here?” I was so intrigued with the story behind the bullets that I felt the need to buy them, not necessarily knowing what I was going to do with them. But they felt relevant. Questions started surfacing: Who used these bullets? How many of these are around? Was anyone killed with these or did they just belong to a random individual that dumped them here? If so, why did a civilian feel the need to have an assault riffle? The questions just kept pouring in. Who should own guns? What is the true need for weapons? Is there any real regulation or accountability for the purchasers intent?
I started researching how to attain more AK-47 bullets. I went to an ammunition store and was shocked to find out that any type of bullet ( including .50 cal military grade live rounds ) could be easily purchased. Upon giving the store my credit card, the salesman automatically changed my name on the purchase receipt stating, "We are protecting your identity." I wondered… who are we trying to hide my name from? If a .50 cal assault rifle is illegal in the state I live in, then why are they still supplying ammunition for it? Shouldn't I be on a watch list just for buying these? Is it that easy to be "off the record" when purchasing a large amount of ammunition? I wanted to see how far I could push things, so I just kept buying to see who would start questioning me. Within a few weeks I bought over 2000 pounds of ammunition ( both live rounds and empty shells ) and no one was ever concerned. Initially, I thought there was no implied danger in buying used bullet shells that are considered "scrap metal". But then I was asked if I needed lead and gunpowder to reload the shells to make my own live bullets. Yet another way to stay off the radar.
Around the same time, I had to schedule a doctor's visit because I was running out of my migraine medication. After the doctor's visit, I went to the pharmacy and was required to show identification and sign a log to get my medication. It was actually easier to buy massive quantities of artillery than to buy medication for my migraines that posed no threat to anyone, including myself. To push the test a little further, I set up a timer. I went to Chick-fil-A and ordered my lunch. It took 17 minutes upon walking in the door, waiting in line, ordering my food, and receiving my meal. Afterwards I went to a local gun store. I entered the building, picked out two assault rifles, completed a quick questionnaire and criminal check, payed with my checkcard and received my weapons. This took 9 minutes total. Should I be concerned that my #4 value meal took longer to purchase then two assault weapons? It became apparent that the issue was not whether weapons should exist but rather how is ownership and purchasing accounted for and who is accountable? The majority of shootings in the news were carried out with the assault rifle weapons and bullets that I was purchasing, easily attainable, with zero accountability. Also, the laws are even more lenient if I purchase weapons from a gun show instead of a local store. The more I examined the issue, the more questions arose: Why are military grade weapons available to civilians? Why are we promoting people to buy guns out of fear instead of legislating gun control? Why are we following a constitutional amendment that was written for a society over 200 years ago when our cultural situation has changed? And on a larger note... Why does the United States disarm other countries when we are the #1 manufacturer and supplier of arms to the world? We as a country point the finger at terrorist organizations when we actually deploy more soldiers and kill more civilians in foreign territories than any other country in the world.
The more I dive into these topics, the less I find an easy solution. I started to wonder... Am I living in a fear based world? In a space of global fear, will we all fail as human-beings?
When someone approaches the artwork I create from bullets, gunpowder, motor oil, shattered high-rise glass, byproducts of weapons, terrorism and destruction.... they are intrigued and open-minded… not consumed with fear. So how can we reprogram ourselves to not react to the world out of fear? Can we not approach the issues I am presenting in my art with the same eyes of understanding and humanity?
I do not have all the answers… but I do hope that we as a society will begin to introduce different solutions.