THE VICE OF DEVICES
Do you remember Gregory Green? He was (and is) the brilliant artist, who, beginning in 1992, started constructing art devices resembling bombs and exhibiting them at now-defunct galleries such as 40 Wooster Street and Feigen Contemporary. He was often investigated, rather inappropriately, by the FBI and appears, at least on my rackety radar, to have disappeared.
I thought of Gregory as I perused the front page of last Saturday's New York Times, which highlighted a color photo of the copying cartridge that is the latest alleged, defused bomb threat from Al Qaeda in Yemen. The photo was passed on to the Times by Jonathan Dienst, the intrepid terrorism correspondent for WNBC-TV in New York.
Of course, the piece resembled a Gregory Green artwork and it also resembles, ambiguously, a lot of the abstract art that followed on websites such as Anaba and Two Coats of Paint. The intended killer bomb is clunky, colorful and very abstract as an image, deadly if realized, of course, and, diabolically confirmative of the particular, prescient genius of the forgotten artist Gregory Green.
For Green's work is as emblematic of our threatful times as Joseph Conrad's Secret Agent was for the anarchistic era of the 19th century. What Green's esthetic and the ramshackle devices of radical Islamonuts both ask is, "What price shall you pay to live for today: random violence targeting the innocent few or all-encompassing, watchful security which makes your every move a life in public?"
Green's further dilemma is the war of Lilliput: the miniscule technologically connected social network is also the means to manufacture and detonate a lethal attack anywhere or anytime. The great physicists such as Leo Szilard and Robert Oppenheimer figured out microscopic deathness at Los Alamos 70 years ago. As Gregory Green used to demonstrate, it is now the way of the world.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).