In honor of Gun Violence Awareness Month, instituted by New York State in 2013, the Brooklyn Museum is “Going Orange” in June. The NYC Go Orange initiative brings cultural institutions into the fight to end gun violence, alongside citizens and community leaders, and draws heightened attention to the issue during the summer, when incidents often increase.
Presenting a small selection of works from the Museum’s global collections, this installation makes wide-ranging and unexpected connections between our national conversation on gun violence and similar struggles worldwide. Though the American situation is particularly dire, with some 20,000 gun-related incidents already reported in 2016, it is also a global issue, particularly in the context of war, armed conflict, and gang violence. Artworks made of actual weapons and books depicting guns may seem unlikely means to address gun violence, but it is the very use of these materials and images that gives these works their powerful force.
Gonçalo Mabunda is part of a Mozambican collective that aims to gather some of the estimated 7 million weapons left in the country following the end of its civil war in 1992 and transform them into new creative forms. His Harmony Chair uses these munitions to speak to Mozambique’s history of conflict and resolution, while also referencing an East African tradition of high-backed chairs. Pedro Reyes's Disarm (Xylophone III) is made from decommissioned guns seized by the Mexican government in Ciudad Juárez, a city plagued by gang violence. Invoking the transformative power of music, Reyes collaborated with a group of musicians to turn the guns into a range of functional instruments, which were then played by an ensemble. Four artist books call attention to the impact of guns on our communities and the world at large.
The works on view in this installation testify to the unique power of art to address urgent sociopolitical issues and to create space for critical social change. These redemptive projects transform objects for killing into poetic statements about the creative potential for rebirth and change in a violent world.