Often the artist expresses his thoughts and questions through his work—and while it may not be his job to answer the prevalent questions plaguing our era, he can put them to the public and make them think–hard.
Throughout history, poets, writers, printers, painters, and more have made provocative statements regarding contemporary societal issues through specifically touching on a subject or just putting the topic out in the open and forcing the public to examine it. The goal is often to have the viewer come at an issue from a different angle, lending some introspection to it that was not previously there.
The topic of violence—and weapons—is one that evokes enormously passionate debate. Because lives are taken, people grieve and worry, and the issue of guns and their place in society is one of the hottest topics in our culture today. The topic often appears to be a volatile and double-sided coin, often taking on intricate legal and philosophical conversations and arguments that never seem to reach a final conclusion.
One artist of our time has jumped feet first into the topic—as well as using our most contemporary and attention-getting technology to express himself on some current and explosive topics. University of Southern California student Justin Finuliar is using his artistic talents in a five-piece art exhibit being shown at USC currently, titled ‘Weaponized,’ to bring out one topic: guns and violence. And he does raise the topic and invoke the questions that circulate around it, without answering it for anyone. He asks you to look and think about it, drawing your own conclusions, and perhaps some new ideas.
He also invokes, simply with his use of technology and display, a conversation regarding 3D printing and guns, a current issue that’s grabbed the attention of the public, as some have attempted to cast a dark side on the power that 3D printing has to give to individuals as they do have the freedom—if they have the advanced skill—to manufacture weapons.
The installation ‘3D Printed Armory’ is a hanging wall display featuring a variety of weapons. Finuliar took the many hours required to 3D print serious artillery by way of machine guns, grenades and even less traditional items but with just as much potential to do harm, like nunchucks and tridents.
The 3D printed installation is more than just thought-provoking. It’s meant to incur more than just a simple ‘hmmm..’ and passing by as the artist deliberately invites the visitor to touch the pieces, detach them, mix and match them, and make other weapons. As the individual viewing the piece becomes involved, perhaps their minds begin to see both the intrigue and controversy from a different angle, as they actually feel the items in question, produced by the technology in question.
“I wanted the viewer to have a very interactive experience by going up to this wall where everything has been created for the same purpose and then creating their own,” Finuliar said. “Alluding to the madness and absurdity of creating more weapons when you already have so many that accomplish that purpose.”
The viewers, experiencing a substantial emotional and political ride, move on to four more installations which again, leave it up to them to decide how they think and feel about guns and violence, but the facts speak plainly for themselves as they see a replica of a sword set into a 700-pound block of concrete, meant to replicate an ancient royal weapon, and inviting viewers to try—in futility—to remove it, as a demonstration and symbolic measure of what royalty is truly about.
“With the interactive aspect, I really wanted to elicit the feeling of wanting to be the person of importance of being the hero and trying to get the sword out. And then on top of that how today’s culture tries to highlight individual achievements through social media.”
Also juxtaposing the horror of violence with the fragility of weapons that are capable of causing death due to their simple precision, “Falling Arrows” depicts 120 arrows falling toward a target—posing danger and incurring fear even with their instrinsically delicate nature.
In ‘D.I.Y. 1-3,’ the artist makes a clever comment regarding what really causes violence—the weapons or the people behind them? Using everyday items that are transformed into powerful weapons that have the capacity to kill a crowd—like a squirt gun used to make a flamethrower—it makes you ponder the fact that with several simple ingredients and some resourcefulness, people will find a way.
In stunning conclusion to the exhibit, Finuliar invokes the numbers regarding how many people die from gunshot wounds each hour, with the distant sound of a bullet being dropped onto a pile intermittently every 20 minutes, reminding the viewers that three people die per hour due to guns, according to the CDC. Whether you are pro-gun, anti-gun, or in-between, you can’t miss hearing the sound and taking some time to imagine and perhaps visualize consequences when guns are fired at people.
“What I really wanted to focus on was a snapshot of how Americans feel,” Finuliar said. “The dichotomy of how we want stronger regulation and how we want everybody to be safe in America and on the other side weapons culture is still here, and is very much embedded in American culture as well. I didn’t really want to choose a side because I feel that Americans really haven’t done so cohesively as a nation.”
While Finuliar puts the facts in plain sight for all to see, he lets the viewer look around for themselves, touching, struggling, hearing, and thinking. He presents a host of ideas that need to be presented and thought about if we are discuss the subject of violence and weapons in an educated, comprehensive way.
What do you think of Finuliar’s presentation in using 3D printing and weaponry as a contemporary statement? Share with us in the ‘Weaponized’ Exhibit Features 3D Printed Artillery forum over at 3DPB.com.