For quite some time, we've wanted to make a project about the right to bear arms in the United States, the craze for gun ownership and its dramatic failures. During our numerous visits to the States, we realized that alcohol and gluten are almost considered more dangerous here than weapons. Due to the deep-rooted traditions in the Constitution's right to bear arms, the never-ending pursuit of freedom and established gun lobbies, the country keeps on failing to take action against gun violence.
It occurred to us that the more you suggest disarmament, the more people fly off the handle. That's why we think if you ever would like to make yourself listen, your actions must still involve guns. With our exhibition, we would like to suggest a ground where people are free to satisfy their shooting needs, in a harmless fantasy funfair format.
Right now, we're in Los Angeles where our latest exhibition, Blue Jeans On Thin Ice, debuted last Thursday at KesselsKramer Gallery. It's an interactive installation that shines a light on the handgun violence issues that America faces.
We created a shooting gallery entirely out of denim, the indigo-dyed cotton fabric that was once purely functional and is now a universal fashion legend. As jeans connoisseurs will know, California plays an important role in the history of denim: while the real inventor of denim remains unknown, it all started with the official granddaddy of all jeans, Mr. Levi Strauss, who wanted to enhance the durability of denim for the miners of California during the American gold rush.
We think guns and blue jeans come together for multiple reasons. First of all, they are both democratic. Obama owns a pair of jeans, me – and in America, anyone can have a gun.
They are both very personal: the jeans take the shape of your body and your gun is your little treasure. Nothing comes between you and your jeans, nothing comes between you and your gun. They're also both rough and tough. Denim is a thick fabric that gets torn, ripped and tainted, all because we all love to see it worn out. We don't even need to explain why guns are violent.
People rely on their jeans and trust them, just as they rely on their weapons – guns and denim are both American and the American dream. And last but not least, they are both associated with freedom. Cowboys wore it, bikers like Marlon Brando in The Wild One wore it, as well as the demonstrators who brought down the Berlin Wall. No other garment personifies freedom more than this best-selling garment of all time.
But with Blue Jeans On Thin Ice, we wanted to talk about democratization of not only guns, but also art. The purchase of art is traditionally done with money, excluding a majority of the public. We find it intriguing to find a solution that didn't fit this traditional approach: one buck, one shot. Shoot three in a row and win a prize.
Last Thursday, during the opening, the visitors got an art piece only when they managed to shoot the targets of the shooting gallery. As a darker addition on the side, we replaced the shooting targets with mirrors. A mirror would break every time a visitor hit their target. As the reward, we had 62 custom-made teddy bears on display. The chosen number symbolizes the amount of mass gun shootings happened in the States since the day we (Pinar and Viola) were born.
If you're in Los Angeles, visit the exhibition and step up to the firing line.
Follow Pinar and Viola on Twitter here @pinar_viola