Dangerous Territory at PNCA
Collectors tend to be a certain type of hermetic, detail-oriented person and those
who collect weapons in a serious
are a very rare breed.
For example, those who collect guns and knives are particularly private, even
gruffly territorial about their obsessions. They usually don't want the rest
of the world know what they have and they seldom actually use their rarer pieces.
Instead, it is a private expression of personal freedom through connoisseurship
and appreciation, an intensely inward pursuit. It is also very much in keeping
with the idea of the West as a frontier by internalizing the personal arms that
were necessary in less civilized circumstances.
This brings up important questions. So is the fetish of the sovereign armed
"individual" as truly crucial to being an American as the NRA thinks?
What's more the right to bear arms is
in Bill of Rights, which is not something to tinker with lightly. Lastly, why is owning a weapon seemingly such a
tread on me stance
? Is it the implied threat? If so, isn't every wine bottle
and rock also a weapon? Where does the line get drawn?
The Americana of it is interesting.... for example I never hear about the French
endlessly arguing whether it is legal to have a guillotine collection and the
British don't seem to make a big deal about collecting night sticks
the Irish do love their shillelaghs
It begs the question, is it a personal refuge into anachronism or simply just
a private interest that gives existential satisfaction? It is likely
So what does it mean when an artist starts collecting these intensely private
worlds in a series of photographs as Todd
has done with his Dangerous Territory exhibition at PNCA
First off, this show is particularly well installed, and the most subtle political
show I've seen this month. The knives are all mounted near the floor with the
points facing up. The guns are aimed in opposing directions in a dueling configuration. This hang
mimics a collector's presentation and Johnson has made certain each print has
the same neutral background. The net effect emphasizes the seriality of the
show along with the details of each piece in relation to others.
By hanging these works with such dry, deliberately latent violence the gallery becomes
a kind front yard. The knives are a picket fence and the guns seem to be a scenario
of "next step" if someone trespasses the gallery's fenced space.
Yet there is such detail in the cold black and white prints that one wants
to linger when looking at the more eye level gun images. Are the guns proxy
images for our highly partisan politics? Are the knives the independents that
ultimately define the political scene? The show succeeds by not overstating
We first saw a glimpse of some
of these works over a year ago in Linfield
but I'm glad Johnson chose to
display the black and white weapons during this politically charged October.
The show doesn't answer any questions but its tenseness certainly seems to embody
our times, while providing a glimpse into an anachronistic continuum that gives
these uncertain times an odd sense of déjà vu.
(in the main building near the prinkmaking studios)