Serial Sniper, project text, 2003

Hypothesis: Violence in Europe shifted into the form of pictures (mainly films, documentaries and computer games) and out of the public space – into institutions and the private sphere. Despite the recent war in the Balkans in the space of the European society there still is a strong feeling that violence and war conflicts always happen “somewhere else”.

Method: A classic public intervention – installation of a disturbing object into public space, in this case a sniper rifle (non-functioning) with a (functioning) optical scope in resemblance of public telescopes. Serial Sniper enables real aiming and evokes the division of those present into either an aggressor or a potential “victim”.  

Realization: Serial Sniper was installed in public space in Amsterdam and later in Bratislava. In Linz, Austria, the police revoked the formerly granted permission.

Context: As any diversive installation the Serial Sniper enabled a different view of the surroundings it was placed into. It was created in a way to mimic serial production and formally it looks like a common entertainment product, i.e. a public telescope. Serial Sniper delineates to its surroundings and enables a certain kind of experience for its active and passive participants. It provokes a hunter and prey game and through its users it changes itself into an aggressive and violent gesture. For its users it dramatizes the implicit aggression of looking and allows us to take the position of a killer.
An interesting connection showed the various reactions of the Amsterdam and Bratislava public; the passersby of the Western metropolis actively joined the situation and called the police. In the post-communist metropolis the reactions – to the same situation – were completely passive and no one in the frequented square tried to find out more about the installation.
 

From an interview the magazine Typo, 2004

What were he reactions to this installation?
Serial Sniper is a rather aggressive installation. It is supposed to enable one to see familiar surroundings in connection with something that does not belong there. That is one of the object’s main functions and a general theme of all public space installations. Public space is often invisible to a certain extent. Similarly to how water is invisible to fish until they are pulled out onto land. That is why public interventions enable one to see one's surroundings once more, in a different way. The project was at first realized in Amsterdam as part of the Next5Minutes Festival of tactical media. Although this is a really big event, the organizers neglected to obtain the necessary permission. And so we opted for a guerrilla installation. We installed in three different places, but everywhere the people were overly active and kept on calling the police. When we were caught the third time, they told us that if they see us once more, they will take us in...

And then Bratislava…
There we had a permission and suffered mainly problems of the technical kind. We were forced to install Serial Sniper for several hours on one of the main squares of Bratislava. Over the whole time of our struggle, no one approached us, no one even noticed us. Everyone just walked by as usual. One has a tendency to interpret this as a residuum of the social behavior of Communism and perception of public space from the totalitarian times, when everyone was taught to mind their own business and ignore things that do not concern them directly. After four days, the Mayor (who initially granted the permission) saw the installation and became active and had Serial Sniper removed. I guess he expected something conventional and this was “more than only art”. The last event took place in Linz. There, the authorities got rid of us rather elegantly and professionally. Everything had been arranged and prepared. Ten minutes before we were to start with the installation the police sent a fax that it would not be, after all, possible. Technical reasons, of course...