Imagine this scene: you’re on your way to work, bleary-eyed, and you approach a bike-sharing station. But, in lieu of bikes, you’re confronted with a row of 10 replica AR-15 rifles. It’s a jarring sight and that’s exactly the point of this collaborative art installation in Chicago’s Daley Plaza from The Escape Pod agency and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
You can’t actually grab a gun from the “Chicago Gun Share Program,” but its creators hope the installation will send a message about how disturbingly easy it is for a citizen to acquire an assault weapon—about as easy as renting a bike.
“The program was developed in response to the lack of federal gun regulations and conflicting state laws that would help protect American citizens from unnecessary gun violence,” according to a statement from the Brady Center.
Besides presenting a powerful visual, the installation is informative—it highlights the disparities in state gun laws between Illinois and Indiana, exposing a microcosm of the much larger issue of a divided America. The piece accepts virtual donations and boasts a social media hashtag: #GunShare
The aim of the gun share is not necessarily to promote a radical overhaul in gun laws, but rather to push the enactment of rudimentary, common sense regulation. There is perhaps no more appropriate place for the project than Chicago, a city which sees a disproportionate amount of gun violence.
In particular, the Brady Center is pushing to extend background checks for all gun sales, ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and pass laws that prohibit someone deemed a danger to themselves or others from owning a gun.
Most importantly, the project aims to keep the conversation about gun safety top of mind. “People have strong opinions on the subject of gun violence, but conversation, and ultimately action, tend to fall off after the immediacy of tragic events fades,” said Celia Jones, CEO of The Escape Pod. “Creating a physical installation brings the issue to the forefront in a way that online articles and other passive media cannot, and being able to use our creativity to raise funds for the Brady Center is the most important part.”
The gun share protest piece comes in the wake of Parkland school shooting survivors urging the advertising industry and media to keep messages about gun safety in the public eye, long after the news cycle has moved on from the Valentine’s Day massacre.
And it seems some in the industry are indeed listening. Dallas-based freelance creative director Susan Levine took advantage of the NRA convention in her city in early May to launch “Face2Face,” an installation that forced viewers to confront enlarged photos of 24 victims of gun violence. In another initiative by Change the Ref and Area 23, social media posts are automatically converted to handwritten letters that can be sent to Congress, in the donated handwriting of Parkland survivors and victims.
“There has been a tremendous amount of support for the piece, even globally, and also voices on the other side of the debate weighing in,” said Jones.
And, while the installation bears striking resemblance to a fake gun-share service called “QuikShot” that was promoted on satirical news site, The Onion, Jones said this is purely coincidence.
“We were not familiar with the story, but we’re huge fans of The Onion so it’s great validation for the installation in our eyes,” she said. “If anything, it goes to show how much the lines between real life and satire are blurring on a daily basis.”