Tag Archives: nuclear criticism

Time of the sign; or, détournement as nuclear criticism

Photograph by takomabibelot, from http://www.thewip.net

Once upon a summertime in a certain southwestern Ontario town, an unknown group of youths encountered, on the town’s outskirts, a sign that welcomed visitors with assurances that this town was a “nuclear weapons free zone.” This pacifistic allure the town shares with other towns around the world, towns that — without such helpful signs — would otherwise surely be presumed to possess silo-sunk stockpiles of ICBMs. Towns like Vancouver, for example. The sign that boasted this town’s lack of an atomic arsenal depicted a dove in flight, as do many such signs, like this one at right, from somewhere in the United States of America.

An architectural peculiarity of the town’s central square had inspired the designer of the sign in question to frame the dove, an olive branch in its beak, winging its way out of an octagon, and over watery waves. Some of these details may be observed in the photograph at left.

Possibly inspired by mind-altering influences like French literary theory, or perhaps by the penchant of engineering students for situationist mischief, the youths relieved it from its post. However, clearly not content to leave their vandalism of the cliché, kleptomanic kind, the youths decided — upon making certain discoveries about the physical properties of the sign, and in particular its paint — to put the sign back.

Evidently, the town liked the edited version so much, it stayed up well into the winter. The youths’ motive in producing this gentle guerrilla art installation remains as profoundly unknown as do their present whereabouts. This critic’s best guess — beyond chalking it up to young people’s natural fondness for pushing the public’s buttons — is that the installation implies no place on Earth can yet claim freedom from nuclear weapons, while their buttons still exist to be pushed.