12th March 2018
Last year an image of my work 'Cloud Gate' (in Millennium Park Chicago) was used without my consent in a politicised advertisement for the National Rifle Association (NRA), entitled 'The Clenched Fist of Truth'. The NRA’s ‘advertisement’ – as they describe the video on their own website – seeks to whip up fear and hate. It plays to the basest and most primal impulses of paranoia, conflict and violence, and uses them in an effort to create a schism to justify its most regressive attitudes. Hidden here is a need to believe in a threatening ‘Other’ different from ourselves. I am disgusted to see my work – in truth the sculpture of the people of Chicago – used by the NRA to promote their vile message. Recent shootings in Florida, Las Vegas, Texas, and a number of other towns and cities, make it more urgent that ever that this organization is held to account for its ongoing campaign of fear and hate in American society.
'Cloud Gate' reflects the space around it, the city of Chicago. People visit the sculpture to get married, to meet friends, to take selfies, to dance, to jump, to engage in communal experience. Its mirrored form is engulfing and intimate. It gathers the viewer into itself. This experience, judging by the number of people that visit it every day (two-hundred million to date), still seems to carry the potential to communicate a sense of wonder. A mirror of self and other, both private and collective, 'Cloud Gate' – or the ‘Bean’ as it often affectionately referred to – is an inclusive work that engages public participation. Its success has little to do with me, but rather with the thousands of residents and visitors who have adopted it and embraced it as their ‘Bean’. 'Cloud Gate' has become a democratic object in a space that is free and open to all.
In the NRA's vile and dishonest video, 'Cloud Gate' appears as part of a montage of iconic buildings that purport to represent ‘Liberal America’ in which the ‘public object’ is the focus of communal exchange. Art seeks new form, it is by its nature a dynamic force in society. The NRA in it’s nationalist rhetoric uses 'Cloud Gate' to suggest that these ideas constitute a ‘foreign object’ in our midst. The NRA’s video gives voice to xenophobic anxiety, and a further call to ‘arm’ the population against a fictional enemy.
The NRA's nightmarish, intolerant, divisive vision perverts everything that 'Cloud Gate' – and America – stands for. Art must stand clear in its mission to recognise the dignity and humanity of all, irrespective of creed or racial origin.
Gun violence in the United States affects every citizen of your country – all religions, all cultures, all ages. The NRA’s continued defence of the gun industry makes them complicit in compromising the safety of the many in favour of corporate profit. I support ‘Everytown for Gun Safety’ and their efforts to build safer communities for everyone across the United States.