La criée - bande noir

Garbage Truck Bomb

Marchal Damien /

2010

Wooden structure, 1017 x 240 x 362 cm.
Mobile phone, car radio, amplifier, bass box, speakers, touch screen, cables.

Production
La Criée centre for contemporary art, Rennes

Exhibition “Garbage Truck Bomb”, for "La Biennale d’art contemporain Les Ateliers de Rennes", second edition "Ce qui vient",
April 30 - July 18, 2010.

Courtesy of the artist.

Vue de l'exposition Garbage Truck Bomb [ou le bombardier du pauvre] © Damien Marchal _ Photo : Benoit Mauras / La Criée centre d'art contemporain
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Garbage Truck Bomb is "an interactive sound installation for truck bomb and detonator". The installation takes the form of a life-size wooden model of a garbage truck, inside which is hidden a cell-phone–activated GSM detonator which at any moment can set off a violent sound deflagration. Here gas bottles, often used in bomb attacks, are subversively remodelled as pressed wood sound sources which boost the resonance of the bass speakers inside them. In a displacement of the codes of terrorism, Marchal takes us through the work as a physical experience.
For the public Garbage Truck Bomb revolves around the question of "taking the plunge". Looking at the work, the visitor is compelled to decide whether or not to activate the explosive device, using his cell phone: on arrival at the exhibition he registers his number at a terminal, and later receives a randomly-timed message allowing him to set the device off remotely. Fully informed of the situation, visitors have the choice of experiencing the work in its entirety or, after considering the implications of their act for the exhibition space, resigning themselves to missing out on the explosion.

This interactive installation leads us to reflect on the role of the spectator and on his relationship to works of art and exhibition venues. Without public participation the work remains incomplete, so the visitor must decide to remain a mere observer or to set off the detonator, as if he were a political activist. Safe from all harm in the latter case, he plays the part of the instigator of an attack, taking his personal pleasure with no consideration for the potential victims. Thus each visitor is obliged to decide on his own course of action.

This possibility of commitment also references our relationship with information as relayed by the media in a geopolitical context. The car bomb is now a worldwide weapon of choice for ideologically activated groups which do not shrink from force and violence. The point is to create an event that draws attention, and terrorists are more concerned with public impact and media repercussions of their acts than with their murderous consequences. How do we take a stand in this kind of situation? How do we process the information involved and what is our attitude to others?

In designing Garbage Truck Bomb, Damien Marchal drew on Mike Davis’s Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb (Verso, 2008). Described in the book is one of the biggest such attacks ever, directed at American troops during the war in Lebanon in 1983. The suicide truck bomb concerned was carrying six tonnes of explosives and killed a hundred soldiers at Beirut airport. The incident had a major geopolitical impact in that it led the American government to withdraw its peacekeeping force. A second extract from Davis’s book outlines the precautions taken at the United States Embassy in Kuwait: all vehicles were denied access to the compound, with the exception of garbage trucks – which turned out to be the chink in the armour. Mike Davis defines the "poor man’s air force" as the very basis of modern terrorism: "Furtive, spectacular, cheap, easy to use, indiscriminately murderous, sure and anonymous, the vehicle bomb is the perfect weapon for marginal groupuscules, providing them with a striking power out of all proportion to their political weight." It was thus Marchal’s study of the historical data and the means employed that shaped Garbage Truck Bomb.

Vue de l'exposition Garbage Truck Bomb [ou le bombardier du pauvre] © Damien Marchal _ Photo : Benoit Mauras / La Criée centre d'art contemporain Vue de l'exposition Garbage Truck Bomb [ou le bombardier du pauvre] © Damien Marchal _ Photo : Benoit Mauras / La Criée centre d'art contemporain Vue de l'exposition Garbage Truck Bomb [ou le bombardier du pauvre] © Damien Marchal _ Photo : Benoit Mauras / La Criée centre d'art contemporain

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