Navy SEAL Sniper as Part of Art Installation

The Constitution grants all citizens “the right to keep and bear Arms”…but in a museum?

The Cincinnati Art Museum’s latest exhibition, Crown, which opened on March 15, has sparked uproar within the art world and the community at large. The central piece in the exhibition, orchestrated by Todd Pavlisko, is a bronze cube speckled with nineteen crowns, aka bullet holes. Back in the fall of 2012, Pavlisko organized for a Navy SEAL sniper to sit in the main hall of the museum and fire at the cube with a Tactical 308; the artist has said he considers the rifle as much a “drawing tool” as a pencil. As it is displayed now, the cube sits beneath a plexiglass case in the museum’s Great Hall, with eight flat-screens tracing the bullets’ projection and displaying the high-speed images captured during the firing process. Pavlisko’s intent was to capture the passing of time with the performance, and subsequent video footage and photography; the bullets fired by the sniper flew past some of the museum’s most iconic works, racing through years of art history in a millisecond.

The museum is receiving a fair amount of heat for their decision to go ahead with this exhibition, considering the great deal of gun violence that has occurred across the US during the last few years. The central piece was created just two months before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Aside from the offensive nature of the exhibition, Crown is proving to be generally unpopular because of its high-risk method of production. Certain members of the art world are voicing concerns about the apparent recklessness of allowing a high-powered rifle to be fired in a museum; many argue that the sound vibrations echoing through the marble hall could have caused damage to the museum’s collection, even damage that may not manifest until many years later.

Offensive and lacking true artistic technique, or innovative and thought-provoking? Regardless,Crown will be on display at the Cincinnati Museum of Art through June 15.

-Kate Haveles

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