Noah Scalin’s Anatomy of War questions a culture of violence.
Too often the conversation about gun control centers on the right of ownership, rather than the lives destroyed by these arms, says artist Noah Scalin. Scalin’s Anatomy of War series aims to provoke a conversation on the human aspect of gun violence by rendering the firarms into human parts—his dissections of the AK-47 and a standard handgun reveal no metal or gears, but human biology, red and purple with the circulation of blood.
“Sculptures and photographs of guns that have been clinically dissected revealing a remarkably human set of internal organs—rather than the cold steel and bullets normally found within,” Scalin says in his artist’s statement on the work. “The object becomes as fragile as the lives that it can potentially take. In addition the gun becomes a physical extension of the body of the user of the weapon.”
Photo by Anthony Hall.
Each bisection lays bare a tight composition of guts—intestines, small and large, are curled inside the barrel; a liver takes the place of a cylinder system; a stomach fills the stock of an AK-47. These structures, produced from polymer clay, acrylic, and enamel, compel ruminations on our relationship to weaponry, as well as on our own fragile mortality. The image of our most vulnerable human parts, arranged within the body of a killing device, forces the viewer to confront a culture of violence. Writes Scalin:
In constant use since its creation in 1946, it is estimated that there are nearly 100 million AK-47 style assault rifles currently in circulation around the globe. Because of its resilience and ease of use this weapon can be found in the hands of military personnel, terrorists, freedom fighters, and child soldiers alike. It has become an iconic image – a symbol that is found on album covers & jewelry and in photos of the famous & infamous. It’s also the only modern weapon to appear on a national flag (Mozambique).
Scalin invokes the image of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47, in his series. In a video, Scalin creates portraits of the deceased Russian general by shooting a gun into a wood panel and then “capturing and preserving the resulting gunshot residue.” Kalashnikov himself expressed regret at his own creation in a letter to the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. “The pain in my soul is unbearable,” he wrote. “I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people’s lives, it means that I, Mikhail Kalashnikov ... son of a farmer and Orthodox Christian, am responsible for people’s deaths.”