Video, mixed media, armed security guard
Exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Built on their interest in an American culture fixated on fear and safety, Guarded consists of an armed security guard stationed to monitor objects deemed potentially dangerous by the TSA. Each object is suspended on its own platform approximately 12 feet off the floor. Each object had a surveillance camera trained on it with a closed circuit feed sent, randomly cycling, to a series of nine flat screen monitors sitting on an extended guard’s desk. The guard was present in the gallery during the museum’s hours of operation. Created as an outgrowth of Barrier (2009) and Target (2010), Guarded incorporates sculpture and direct relational experience for the viewer. By focusing on the authority granted to the Transportation Security Administration under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security, Type A has extended the tension associated with national security both in air travel in particular and American life in general. While already a topic of much frustration and suspicion, the “Prohibited Items” list and the screening process have become a microcosm for the actions that contemporary Americans have either willingly or begrudgingly submitted themselves to in order to remain safe, primarily from terrorist acts.
From the Transportation Security Administration: The prohibited items list is not intended to be all-inclusive and is updated as necessary. To ensure travelers' security, Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) may determine that an item not on the Prohibited Items List is prohibited. Also, please note that some dangerous items below are illegal in certain states and passengers will be subject to state law. It is a passenger’s responsibility to be aware that origination and destination cities may have local laws prohibiting the possession of these items.
Guarded plays on the public’s view of these security measures, from outrage to ambivalence to helplessness, by bringing the prohibited items into a museum for the sole purpose of having them guarded. A museum is usually a place where people go to experience a mediated view of reality, one that utilizes aesthetics to transport the audience. In Guarded, visitors will not only be confronted by their fear of potentially threatening devices, but also reminded of the frustration that arises because of the TSA’s prohibition of seemingly innocuous objects. Though they will be out of reach, as well as monitored by a professional security guard, the potential for violence or destruction exists — as does an under-riding sense of absurdity. That potential exists outside of the museum at all times, as government agencies so readily remind us. Opening up the museum and audience to the potential for violence challenges both the actuality of threat as well as one’s necessary selective disregard of such threats as a means to navigate life without paralysis.