Before the recent Orlando shooting and the resulting debate over firearms regulation, queer actor and artist John Moletress created a performance art piece examining America’s deadly obsession with guns.
At the February 2016 OUTsider Festival in Austin, Texas, Moletress collapsed 462 times onto a soil bed, signifying the 462 people who died in U.S. mass shootings during 2015. Moletress’ work — entitled, “The Gun Show” — played for several hours in front of numerous kids and families at the Vortex, a combination bar and theatre. In Texas, an estimated 44 percent of the population owns at least one gun.
Each time Moletress falls, I envision another victim falling to the ground. There’s no gunshots, bullets or blood in this pieces, but after each fall, Moletress stays on the ground for a little bit, letting us feel the death. Then Moletress rises again — covered in a little extra dirt and sweat — breathing a second or two before the next inevitable fall.
In a “pony shed” nearby, several televisions arranged into the shape of a gun played “sexy” scenes with guns, both literal and figurative — you could see ducks and desperadoes get shot down in 8-bit Nintendo games, Dirty Harry slinging bullets at bad guys, news reports of gun violence, images of firing rifles, videos of muscle-clad hunks lifting weights (showing off their “guns”) and live-concert footage of the rock band Guns N’ Roses.
The U.S. has more civilian-owned guns than any other modern nation and ranks 12th in firearm deaths per capita, just behind the war-torn African nation of Burundi. The most recent Pew Research shows that support for increased firearm regulation has hovered at 50 percent or just below it for the last six years.
(article originally published on Feb 23, 2016, it has been expanded for current events and artistic analysis)