Practical Examples & Open Forum

6 posts / 0 new
Last post
Practical Examples & Open Forum

This is a space for conversation leaders and guests to pose questions, propose ideas, share successes, tactics, tools, and resources with one another that have not been addressed in other threads. 

#ArtIsMyWeapon Pillsbury United Communities - Minnesota, USA

Art is My Weapon: Creatively addressing violence.

An initiative of Pillsbury United Communities in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, we aim to use art and creativity to spark social change. A fall 2016 gun buy-back event took handguns, rifles, and assault weapons off the streets of Minneapolis. These weapons were "de-commissioned" by cutting or welding moving parts so that they can no longer be used as firearms or sold for parts. Now they are in the hands of 40 artists who will use them in artwork that questions the role of guns in US culture.

This project is based on groundbreaking work by New Orleans artist and gallery owner Jonathan Ferrera. His exhibit "Guns in the Hands of Artists" set the stage for interrogating gun violence through art.

As an artist in possession of de-commissioned pistol grips, rifle stocks, and assault weapon muzzles, I wonder if any of you have advice for me? What would you do with these objects? What themes need to be addressed? How might #ArtIsMyWeapon artists protest gun violence in the US through this work?

Gun parts

The first thing that comes to my mind is fashioning a giant pen (and/or artist's brush and maybe palette) out of the gun parts.  The Pen/Brush is Mightier than the Sword.

Or (more edgy/potentially controversial) what about making children's toy objects--a giant teddy bear, a baby doll, Lincoln Logs cabin--out of the parts?  I don't know if that would be feasible or not.  I'm thinking about this photo essay of young kids posing with their (Barbie pink) firearms ...

so many possibilities

medelaure, thanks for these ideas about using gun parts in art! I love the pen idea and wonder about inserting a ballpoint pen in some of the pistol barrels I have on hand. Then thinking about how to display this/make clear the functionality of the pen in an exhibit...

The juxtaposition of children's toy and gun(s) is also intriguing. The inaugural exhibit ( had the image below (Marcus Kenney, Girl With Gun, 2014) that I found fascinating and disturbing, like your post above.

I am creating sculptures with a technique similar to building cedar strip canoes. What I have in mind is sculpting torso-like forms and staining them in different shades of white/black/brown then adding different gun parts, shells, slugs to interrogate racialized discrepancies in second amendment rights advocacy, with a title something like "racing the second".

Thanks for sparking some ideas about this work! 


On collaboration with communities and subtler forms of protest

Hi everyone, 

I'm honoured to be a part of this conversation! I thought I would post in here to begin with in regards to a recent project I have been a part of which is a community arts project with survivors of the British atomic testing program in Australia which took place in the 1950s and 60s in South and Western Australia. 

I want to share this project because I think the parameters around 'protest art' can be quite broad and I was thinking how some projects can be quite subtle in how they become effective as a form of protest. 

The overall project was called 'Nuclear Futures' - a reference to the very fact that with all of the ongoing and remnant nuclear waste, weapons etc, we know our future is going to contain some kind of radioactivity, but the question posed is what that might look like, and how we can change it. 

A little aout the Nuclear Futures Partnership Initiative:
"Nuclear Futures is a three-year program of arts activities, originating in Australia, and extending across six countries. It supports artists working with atomic survivor communities, to bear witness to the legacies of the atomic age through creative arts. In Nuclear Futures, communities and artists use theatre, film, paintings and sculpture, literature, photography, digital arts and other art forms to make creative works that reflect both the horror of living with nuclear radiation, and the resilience of communities as they face the nuclear future. Nuclear Futures is an initiative that creates new partnerships with other arts organizations, and with educational and cultural institutions, research facilities, campaign groups and atomic survivor and nuclear veterans communities – in Australia, Britain, Japan, Marshall Islands, Kazakhstan and India. We want to extend previous sharing of stories amongst nuclear survivors, with focus on the theme of community resilience – exploring how experience of the bomb translates into community development and international campaigns for peace and disarmament."
Ngurini, 2015 - Nuclear Futures
One significant part of the work was to make a series of projections and a photographic exhibition in collaboration with the Anangu Aboriginal Traditional Owners who were forcibly relocated from their lands during the atomic testing program, as well as with a nuclear veteran-turned whistleblower Avon Hudson who worked as an driver and airforce engineer for the Royal Australian Air Force at Maralinga. We spent a significant amount of time working on the stories with these two community 'groups' to see how the story could be best told through art. The resulting work became directed by the communities and was in the form of two large 360 degree immersive digital projections and a photographic exhibition telling the story of both the Aboriginal perspective and the nuclear veterans perspective. 
Located 1200 kilometres north-west of Adelaide, Maralinga was once a landscape contoured by snakes and spinifex, mulga and malu, but now, this land has been transformed from an open hunting range, a place for making camps or simply moving through, to a surface stripped of its original soil; soil in which tiny specks of plutonium became so populous it had to be scraped into pits three meters deep and capped with twelve inches of concrete, in an attempt to remove its very presence from the surface of this earth. Between 1952 and 1963 the British Government performed nuclear weapons tests at Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia and Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia. A total of twelve major nuclear tests were performed, and up to 700 minor ‘dirty’ trials were also conducted. Many Aboriginal people and nuclear veterans have either died or are still suffering the physical and psychological effects of these tests.
While the impacts of the British nuclear tests at Maralinga had very real and disastrous immediate effects, the ongoing impacts to health, connections to land and country, memory and history deepened over time. Some key questions being asked by the Nuclear Futures group were: what would the landscape and associated communities look and be like in the future? What role would art play in this nuclear future? And, how can the event of Maralinga be inhabited by art? 
While the work itself was not explicity protest, the resulting work became a warning, or awareness raising, about repeating these henious acts in reference to contemporary debates about a national and international radioactive waste dump proposed for Aboriginal land in South Australia, as well as the proposal to expand the nuclear industry in Australia; the work became a reference point and point of discussion to talk about contemporary issues on the table while looking to the acts of the past to remind us. 
The other forms of protest that this project succeeded in was in the form of ensuring that community members/survivors be a significant part of the storytelling process and by allowing a space and process in which those communities can collaborate with contemporary artists/activists to make these issues come to light in a new way. 
I think what this kind of work (which was presented in public galleries) does is it can allow the 'general public' to engage in issues that they may not otherwise listen to if only part of a protest on the street, or some other kind of traditional form of 'protest' - I think this kind of art enables a more subtler form of activism and protest, whereby 'everyday people' can listen and attempt to take in what is presented to them - it also allows them to digest and respond in their own time. This work then becomes a resource tool for the larger debate about nuclear, land/environmental issues, Aboriginal justice issues, racism, captialism, colonialism, etc. 
It is hard to measure the 'effect' of this kind of work, or the impacts is has on public consciousness/debate, but I believe that it no doubt plays a significant role. 
User-generated database of case studies of artistic activism

Here's a resource that might be useful here: It's a user-generated, open-source, totally free, database of case studies of artistic activism.  You can search by issue, region and medium -- and even set up your own gallery. It has about 2000 examples on it from around the world. So please browse -- and better: post some of these amazing examples being shared here.