While a cold and prolonged winter brought the Ides of March to Torontonians in an inhospitable and ruinous way, a different kind of destruction was occurring in our sister city, Chicago. Arguably the binary opposite of the practice most artists keep—creation—the kind of demolishing explored by Fulton Street Collective lionvsgorilla through the exhibition Appetite for Destruction was both unique and productive. Anti-art movements have emerged at least once a decade since the turn of the 19th century and the 2010s are no different. Mobilized to further explore auto-destructive art practices by forbearers like French artist Arman and the Fluxus movement, the LVG team assembled a selection of sixteen locally-based artists to put on a one night immersive exhibition. Precariously balanced on the premise of destroying all of the work generated for the show on the evening of March 23, 2013, Appetite for Destruction featured ships and champagne, uranium cake, suggestions of C-4, paintballs and a performative dance party that provoked active participation from audience members and exhibiting artists alike. Magical mayhem ensued, affording the consideration of white cube gallery spaces as sites for the reversal of typical cultural hegemony.
Among the participants was OBC’s Kate McQuillen, an artist whose print, sculpture, and installation-based practice is informed by the culture of fear and suspicion emergent from the last two decades of war on terrorism. Submerging herself in a new form of sculptural exploration, McQuillen created convincing but edible versions of C-4 explosives, Molotov cocktails, and Yellowcake Uranium using commonly encountered food items. The duplicitous appearance of these consumables implies the ease with which any object can be turned into a weapon, just as any weapon can be disguised as an innocuous object. It is this exchange between the baleful and the benign that the artist suggests has raised the temperature of the US’s socio-political climate over the last few years, making many ordinary citizens feel like undeserving suspects.
Counter-posing the absurd with the terrifying, McQuillen presented audience members with images of bombs and the materials from which they are made: C-4, a Molotov Cocktail, and a pile of Yellowcake Uranium. Below these menacing images sat the actual objects staged in the shots, revealing the makeshift bombs to be made out of blocks of firm tofu, apple juice in a found bottle, and baked cake crumbs respectively. Thus while the photographic plane of the images enables the believability of each objects’ threat, the sculptures assembled from items the artist regularly keeps in her kitchen reveal the double-bind at play. Exhibition-goers were invited to eat the artwork in a compelling act of defiance of fear—an active metaphor for pushing back on the governmental forces that have allowed terrorism to turn inward on its own people. McQuillen’s work is as responsible as it is novel and a worthwhile reminder of Gustav Metzger’s protest against nuclear weaponry using acid to dissolve nylon.
OBC is looking forward to further provocations with Kate McQuillen’s upcoming show, Backscatter, opening June 21, 2013 and continuing through July 27, 2013.