GUNS AND BUTTER
INDUSTRY OF THE ORDINARY / ADAM BROOKS & MATHEW WILSON
“Guns and Butter” used, as its starting point, the phrase that demonstrates the relationship between a nation’s investment in defense and civilian goods, which was infamously invoked by Joseph Goebbels when he said, “One cannot shoot with butter, but with guns.”
Given the proliferation of firearms in the United States, we were interested in referencing this economic argument in direct terms. We embedded a legally-purchased rifle in butter over the course of three hours and then, using space heaters, slowly caused the butter to melt away over the course of the subsequent three weeks to reveal the rifle.
To produce this work, we used the residual butter from a butter sculpture of President Obama that we created for our mid-career survey at the Chicago Cultural Center in late 2012.
The work became a controversial issue at the University of Illinois, Springfield campus, not because it used a firearm (a condition of the work being produced was that the firing pin was to be removed for the duration of the show), which seemed to be of relatively little consequence to the audience, but because it smelled so badly; the aroma of slowly decaying fat permeated the building in which it was housed and caused offense. As a consequence, the show closed four days early.