Moved by the murder of John Lennon, a Swedish artist forged a metal sculpture of a gun with knotted barrel. The sculpture has become a symbol of non-violence that now has stood in front of the UN entrance for more than a quarter of a century, after its original dedication to this site (from NYC’s Strawberry Fields.)
The UN has been gifted with many works of art, some of them expressing diversity of cultures and tolerance, but also emphasizing the shared hopes of humanity for peace. These gifts displayed throughout the UN also project an inclusive UN and now perhaps are best representative of the evolving concepts of global citizens and diplomat-artists. (More on “Cultural Diplomacy“) Overtime, the “knotted gun” has grown in its symbolism even beyond its original roots as weapons continue to cloud and threaten the future. It also evidences how an artist can be ahead of the sunrise in revealing both the dark and good possible. Carl Fredrik Reutersward of Sweden started this piece in 1980 with a smaller model soon after the murder of John Lennon.
The relevance of the debate over gun violence has only become more pronounced as such weapons have become the favorite tool of terrorists, domestic abusers or simply street gangs. Some claim that it is people that kill not the guns. However, many such apologists for the gun epidemic also blame race, religion or even social media as the cause. It would indeed be ironic if social media has greater government controls upon it than guns, at least in the United States where the First Amendment stands out as the most effective weapon and right of non-violent expression and at times political/social opposition to unchecked authority. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution has not been a credible deterrent to the overreach of government, but it can be employed as means of one crazed individual terrorist or otherwise to oppress fellow citizens.
Whether of presumed Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, atheist or Hindu identity, the gun has become the favored tool of terror and symbol of imposing upon the other their will, particularly where they have not managed to rise in the market place of ideas. The gun is not a symbol of strength but imposition, whether political, cultural or personal dominance. It can even be an extension of the phallic to those weak of spirit and imagination. We should also not ignore the impact of weapons upon everything from poaching of animals to the degradation of the environment. (Read: “Should Crimes Against Environment & Animals Deserve International Prosecution?“) Ideas can overcome both oppression and mistrust but the gun frequently stands in the way, as machismo and outgrown tradition.
More on photos and history of art and the knotted gun at the UN, see: “Non-Violence a Global Tribute to Peace by Carl Fredrik Reutersward“)