- Courtesy the artist and James Harris Gallery
- This is Gary Hill's Fat Man fragile glass sculpture, safe and invisible inside James Harris Gallery. It makes other things visible instead, like the historic red-brick building of Pioneer Square appearing on its glass skin.
What's strength and what's weakness? Tomorrow, in front of a crowd and a high-speed camera, artist Gary Hill will drop a glass bomb from a height of 30 feet at the Rainier Oven building. What will drop is a copy of Hill's Fat Man sculpture, while the original will remain intact in the gallery not far away. The historical counterpoint to Fat Man is Little Boy (Little Boy having been dropped first, before Fat Man), and Hill's glass version of Little Boy also sits in the front window of the gallery.
The demonstration would be less interesting in another city and by another artist. Here, the metaphors are flying.
Glass art is a dominant power in Seattle, seen often as a warlike counterpoint to the effete world of other types of art—all that fire and molten glass and the twirling of sticks. "Conceptual" artists like Hill have been loath to touch glass. When the two worlds collide, things can get interesting. (Hill, it should be pointed out, is plenty dominant in other ways, as a museum and critical darling. He won the Stranger Genius Award in 2011. He's one of the few artists you can imagine would have the chutzpah to reenact a nuclear bombing as an entertainment.)
"The bomb's downward path and eventual detonation will be shown in ultra slow motion and charged with hyper anticipation," the PR for the event reads.
Where belligerence meets aesthetics? The event is in some ways inherently offensive; this is surely intentional. How will the resulting footage be used? How does the audience matter? You'll have to find all this out for yourself. Three writings have been circulated with the announcement:
"And he [would] occasionally look at the audience as if to say; isn't it just like that?" Bertolt Brecht
By Anastasia Yumeko Hill, Gary's daughter:
As I look through the glass, it shifts the very nature of the object shown behind it; the thing, as it was before (bumping around in the world), is paused—displaced by another presence entirely. No longer 'just itself,' it has now become a display... And from this view, glass can thus be seen as not just a material or thing, but as an estranged relation...
By Paul Tibbets, pilot of Enola Gay, the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in the history of warfare:
The bomb was released. We executed our turn away as we had been directed. The bomb blast hit us. It hit us in two different shock waves, the first being the stronger. This, as I say, was a perfectly unexciting and routine thing up until the point of taking a look at the damage that had been done and then it was kind of...it was a little bit hard to realize. It was kind of inconceivable as to what we were looking at there. We passed comments back and forth in the airplane. We took pictures, and by the time we had done that, I became concerned that we better quit being sightseers and get out of there, and we were gone off to the coast in a matter of about 20 minutes from the time that the bomb was released.
You can see Fat Man, Little Boy, and the rest of Gary Hill's new sculptures at James Harris Gallery.
Safety glasses are required at the drop.