“Did anyone bring a gun?” asked Heyd Fontenot, moderator of the “Shoot Your Mouth Off” panel discussion last Saturday evening. That’s probably a smart question to ask when one is in a state that has legalized the right to carry concealed handguns onto school grounds. No one was packing. No one even talked about muzzle velocity or modified ejection ports. Instead, the discussion moved immediately into more complex topics as panelist Noah Simblist discussed how architecture frames violence and the assertion of power through the positioning of weaponry. Discussion followed about the beautification of weapons (such as “Hello Kitty” designer guns), the artist/writer William S. Burroughs’s gun fetish, and the practice of collecting of “tough art” as the audience and panelists jointly navigated topics of power, violence, and cultural norms that aren’t so normal.
The panel was the verbal companion piece to the “Gun & Knife Show” co-curated by Fontenot and Web and held at CentralTrak. The art in the exhibit takes into account the fascination with guns and the ability of artists to re-contextualize the weaponry. Both the panel discussion and art show were an invitation to disrupt classic right/wrong notions about weapons, seeing them as both artwork and cultural icon in a region with a predominance of gun ownership.
Many audience members offered up stories, mentioning that they grew up with guns and art in the house. Which begs the question of how learned cultural behaviors replicate themselves, simultaneously furthering the appreciation of both weaponry and fine art in our society.