Completed at Elsewhere Living Museum and Artist Residency, July 2022
Materials: Museum collection toy guns, collection wood, collection table legs, unfired stoneware clay, glass, original audio
Elsewhere Living Museum and Artist Residency is a former thrift store & boarding house. The museum hosts public programming and artist residencies, during which artists live on site and make work inspired by & utilizing materials from the enormous thrift "collection," acquired between 1939 - 1997. While sifting through the vast collection within the walls of Elsewhere, I found myself casually & categorically organizing the toys. Boats… airplanes… troll dolls… farm animals… cars… ABC blocks… happy meal figurines… guns. Intuitively removing the guns from the toy shelves with no plan in mind (besides disarming the collection), I ultimately found over 50 guns. What to do with them now? In an intention to re-contextualize these tools of harm, remove them from the norm of visual culture, and invite conversations around the idea of guns & childhood, I built a case made of glass and wood and buried the toy guns in clay. This container of somewhat camouflaged toy weapons became a tabletop for folks to sit around. As I created this piece and continued to process the perpetual news of horrific gun violence throughout our country, I remembered a class conversation my co-teacher, our 4-year old students, and I had one day last fall. The audio from this conversation, recorded with consent of the students, plays in conjunction with the piece, from beneath the table. The table sits in a room surrounded by works made by other artists who address ideas around safety, childhood trauma, and the frustrating wait for bureaucracy.
In the “imagination battle”* we're in, can we imagine a world where gun games are not a norm of childhood? Perhaps this piece is a window into a possible future, where archeologists discover and unearth this artifact of ancient human life, and hear the voices of the children who considered what else might be possible.
*"imagination battle" is a reference to a concept introduced by Adrienne Maree Brown in her book Emergent Strategy.
Photos by Sudade Toxosi