A striking show at this year’s Scope contemporary art fair took on the topic of gun control with an installation that parodied back-to-school shopping in the age of rampant mass shootings in America.
Viewers first see an arcade-style vending machine, under a chalkboard sign that says “Back to School Shopping.” The prize machine is filled with plastic guns.
Hanging around it are bulletproof vests printed in designer logos, and tin lunchboxes covered in My Little Pony and Care Bear images. The lunchboxes (seen in the photo above) are hung open, revealing that they’re each a “safety defense box” complete with mace, a taser, brass knuckles, a gun, and some gummy bears.
The installation is by WhIsBe, an anonymous contemporary street artist known for combining the nostalgic and the sinister to create a cultural critique. The Scope installation was true to the artist’s characteristic subversive style, and in this case was eerily on the nose.
As the US government continues to fail to pass meaningful gun-control measures, schools are resorting to absurd defense measures, like arming staff and students with rocks and hockey pucks in the event of a safety threat. In fact, America’s school shooting problem is so severe, it has actually created a market for bulletproof backpacks.
So while WhIsBe’s show was a parody on its face, the message that children face a serious threat from guns in schools—with no immediate signs of improvement—is not at all far from reality.