Timing and the American Gun Show

After announcing and opening the American Gun Show at Works SJ this weekend I have heard a few comments regarding the timing of the event. To explain this for those not up on the 24 hour news cycle in the US this is in response to the mass shooting that took place in Oregon on a community college campus on October 1st.

This is not a coincidence. That is not to say that we anticipated this heartbreaking event, but that there have been as many mass shootings in the US as there have been weeks this year. This is a tragedy, there is no time to talk about gun culture and gun violence without the specter of a mass killing to provide context. This is a national tragedy, and something needs to be done about this, but somehow I doubt the American people have the political will to do so. I would have expected swift action after the Sandy Hook tragedy, but there was none, and now with the tragedy of the week I am afraid that this has become the new normal. By normal I do not mean acceptable, but rather predictable. Watch the headlines and wait.

When we curated this show it was to talk about the deep cultural roots and representation of the gun in the American psyche, and in fact it seems that everyone has a gun story, good or bad. The sad truth is that both sides of the debate agree that we don’t want another massacre but because we are fighting what amounts to the other half of the population we can never figure out how to move forward. In the process of bringing this show together with my co-curator, I have experienced some of the most reasonable conversations with enthusiasts, and this makes the demonization that I am seeing in social media hard to deal with. If we don’t talk, this will never be addressed. If we fight each other and keep repeating “There is no reasoning with ‘them'” then there will be no conversation and the country will move on just like it did after 20 children were shot dead in 2012.

I have been paying attention too, which is to say that there sure are some steps that we might take, but this post is not about my opinions on that. We will not move forward if it is us against them, we have not moved forward.

Though this is an election year, all the noise is about hunkering down and getting the other side to give. I won’t even wish you luck with that one, you are however welcome to come to the table and have a conversation with other reasonable people.

I have been accused of being naive on this, that there is no way to make a change with talking (because “they” won’t listen), but my other option is to do nothing, and I opt for action and conversation.

3 thoughts on “Timing and the American Gun Show

  1. The American Gun Show Review

    If you are in San Jose, California be sure to check out The American Gun Show exhibition (TAGS) at WORKS Gallery. The American Gun Show features fascinating art and craft, but its biggest success may be in understatement. The name conjures up visions of swap meets full of gun sellers and weighty issues that are largely sideswiped by the curatorial team of James Morgan and Dorothy Santos. Not a polemical effort, TAGS showcases to a large degree the playful spirits of both curators, rather than offering the anticipated critical examination of the American gun. This is the Seth MacFarlane version of the gun debate in America, where guns are fetishized as sexual objects and become banal sculptural (and narrative) convention.

    TAGS is full of the cute, the clever and the crafty, but lacked the smell of gun powder, exit wounds and blood splatter that are the reality of the American gun. The level of craft demonstrated in this exhibition contains a credible diversity of fabrication, ranging from a shotgun puncture made with 12 gauge buckshot through 3/4” plywood, to a highly fetishized uzzi machine pistol in blue and white porcelain. The American Gun Show seems to be indulging in a formal examination of the gun as object while overlooking the inconvenient death part.

    This show, despite the serious subject was almost ebullient, it comes off as comedic in the face of numbing tragedy rather than a gritty explication. Ironically it may be just this lack of polemic that saves The American Gun Show from the sin of aggrandizing guns, and contributing to their mythological status in our culture.

    DC Spensley October 2015

  2. This is very important work, anyone who says it is otherwise is sadly distracted. Best of luck.

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