What if guns were as vulnerable beneath their blue steel shells as the humans or animals they’re designed to kill? In his (literally) visceral Anatomy of War sculptures, artist Noah Scalin imagines firearms that have been clinically vivisected to reveal a realistic set of internal organs underneath–all as a way of drawing attention to the human toll of the gun debate.
Made of polymer, clay, acrylic and enamel, Scalin’s anatomical weapons include a Smith & Wesson .45 with its skin stripped off and an AK-47 filled with pulsing viscera. They’re almost like Visible Man kits for semi-automatic weapons. In Scalin’s sculptures, underneath every gun’s barrel, trigger, or stock, sits an esophagus, liver, or heart. They aren’t machines; they’re organisms.
Well, organisms except for one crucial organ: Scalin pointedly leaves the brain out of his sculptures, a concerted attempt to emphasize the brainlessness of guns. Weapons, Scalin reminds us, have no will or agency themselves. That’s not to say anything as trite as “guns don’t kill people,” because they do. But it’s human brains that are ultimately responsible for using them.
According to Scalin, his Anatomy of War weapons are meant to try to ground the ongoing gun debate. “Too often the discussion around guns in America gets wrapped up in emotional terms around the 2nd Amendment,” Scalin says. “The idea behind The Anatomy of War series is to bring the discussion back to the individual human level.” And even if they don’t influence anyone’s ideas about gun control, at least Scalin’s sculptures have a viable second life as props in a future David Cronenberg film.