Taro Hattori has constructed twelve plastic machine guns (M-16s and M-249s), and hired day-laborers to pose with them for photographs. The transparency of the guns subverts the sense of power they otherwise evoke, and presents the authority of brute force in its meaninglessness. By hiring his models, Hattori mimics the growing importance of mercenaries in modern warfare, and the constitution of the American military in particular as a ‘volunteer’ army comprised largely of poor and working-class people – like these day laborers – without many viable alternatives. By constructing groups of twelve, he also draws a connection to America’s jury system that grants a more ambivalent significance to the formation of groups than his critique of violence might otherwise suggest. Uniformly armed, Hattori’s subjects appear to be united in a common purpose: to fight the “enemy,” to pass judgment, or simply to have their picture taken. But he has not instructed his models how to pose, and they do not stand in formation. The day-laborers strike poses rich with bravado that express not only the feelings of power that come with joining a group and carrying a gun, but also their individuality. The group is not internally cohesive, which both helps to explain the need for an excluded ‘other’ to hold groups together, and presents a critical vantage from which to challenge their force.
by Clark Buckner
plastics, digital pigment print, metal, wood
dimensions: variable (guns are in their life sizes, each photograph: 30"x41")