In December 2016, Harper’s Magazine published a list of more than 20 objects that had been “mistaken for guns during shootings of civilians by police in the United States since 2001.” Artist Cara Levine found herself stunned then grief-stricken by the items, prompting her to launch the multi-faceted This Is Not a Gun project, which she discusses in the latest interview supported by Colossal Members.
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I needed to slow down and understand what I was looking at because I don’t want to live in a world where someone can be killed eating a sandwich. We are getting this information so fast. I decided first to carve. I thought, “If I can carve a sandwich, somewhere in the process, from block of wood to sandwich I can understand how someone might think this is a gun. If I just spend all the time understanding its form, maybe I’ll understand how it was mistaken as a gun.”
As Levine explains in her conversation with Colossal contributor Paulette Beete, she wasn’t naïve about gun violence or how often it occurred in Black communities at the hands of police. What she found unfathomable, however, was how these everyday objects could be interpreted as threats. So she turned to her art as a way to understand the seemingly understandable. In this interview, Levine speaks about how This Is Not A Gun has informed and evolved her practice, her understanding of both individual and collective grief and trauma, and the importance of ritual.