Local artists meandered between guns lining a gallery floor Thursday night. But the firearms were decommissioned, disarmed, and the dismantled pieces were free for the taking.
The s one took place at Artspace at Crown and Orange at an event coordinated by the gallery, the Unload Foundation and Ely Center of Contemporary Art.
Guests and artists alike could select disassembled gun pieces, organized on the floor of the gallery through a method dubbed “knolling,” to incorporate the chosen bit into a fully-developed artwork. The finished works will be displayed at the Ely Center of Contemporary Art as part of an “#Unload: Pick Up the Pieces” exhibition lasting from Oct. 11 to Nov. 11. The finished works must address the divided climate surrounded gun control or recent events concerning gun usage and public safety.
“We as artists and people in the arts –– whether it’s performing arts, visual arts –– have a voice,” said Helen Klisser During, cofounder and artistic director of Unload.
The gun parts available to artists resulted from a gun buyback initially coordinated by the Hartford Police Department and the medical community in December, which the Unload Foundation Inc. arranged to be brought in for the purpose of refashioning the 68 decommissioned guns into artwork. The event drew initial inspiration from a similar project coordinated by Fairfield University
Chance Baldauf, an artistic representative from Tom Sachs Studio located in SoHo, helped to arrange the triggers, barrels, muzzles, etc. during the day so guests could browse the pieces in an organized, aesthetically pleasing manner.
Baldauf exhibited the meditative, organizational and artistic practice through a performance art presentation, embodying Sachs’ studio motto: “Always be knolling.” Knolling revolves around organizing light objects at 90 degree angles or parallel to one another by means of association and logical grouping. If done correctly, Baldauf said, any one of the artists could navigate Sachs’ studio blindfolded.
The organizers of the event looked to knolling as an effective manner to display the artistic options as well as a metaphor for the goals of Unload.
“We want to deconstruct people’s ideas and unconscious bias –– deconstruct it so we can build it in a new way,” said Mary Himes, co-founder of Unload.
Baldauf and Sachs have both affirmed intentions of participating in the upcoming art show, which the organizers noted would overlap with the midterm elections. Additionally, other established artists like Scott Schuldt –– whose art is currently on display at the Elm City’s Institute Library –– attended Thursday night’s event to select their inspiration.
Schuldt works thematically, starting with baseline ideas to develop a pieces that goes for “the emotional jugular.” Schuldt specifically looked for parts which he could fashion to create heavy rosary or prayer beads.
“There’s a lot of responsibility to owning a gun, and, frankly, there’s a lot of people who aren’t doing that,” said Schuldt.
Teens involved in Artspace’s Summer Apprenticeship Program took part in Thursday night’s event. Sofiya Hafiz, 16, did not recognize which part of the gun she had selected. Instead, Hafiz –– who lives in Sandy Hook, the location of the 2012 elementary school massacre –– chose her firearm part for its shape and open design.
“It connects the topic of gun violence, but it also shows that guns can be made into something productive and that they don’t have to be used for weapons,” she said.