As many of you know I have been working on a mega project over the past year ‘My Love is Bulletproof’, to mobilise discussion around Australias changing gun laws. From the initial concept and creation to the finished installation I have devoted hundreds of hours over one year to making this project happen.
Installation view of My Love is Bulletproof by Nikky Agnello. Photo by Michael Mavracic.
I’m pleased to say the exhibition over the month of May at Cube 37 Gallery, Frankston Arts Centre was a great success with many people visiting and a well attended artist talk. As it is with all art that comes from the heart the artist is often left feeling vulnerable and exposed. When I was given the opportunity to discuss why I created this artwork and what it means to me I had to pause and reflect on my childhood. I was taken back to a time when I felt very unsafe and vulnerable in the dangerous society that I grew up in in South Africa. I struggle to recount some of the terrible things I have witnessed as a child, encounters with murder and gun violence all of which have influenced me to dedicate myself to this project. I have flown across the world to escape feeling unsafe and the last thing I want is for Australia to begin to go down this dark and violent path.
Photo of Nikky Agnello by Nalaka De Silva
What if you could put a protective force field around those you love? Would you do it? It’s often the case in life that you don’t know what you have lost until it’s gone. Australia has a wonderful safe society and that is worth protecting. I look at the heinous power that the NRA has in America and I wonder how it came about that they are so powerful that now ordinary Americans are can’t stop them. It seems to me that there must have been a time when common sense prevailed but that perhaps it happened gradually, a payout there a bribe here, one more politician in the pocket and so on. I would hate to see that happen here.
So how in Australia does the pro gun lobby get power? There is a deadly quirck in Australias National Firearms agreement. When this was introduced 23 years ago it stated that to have a firearm you needed to have a valid reason. For those who weren’t farmers or hunters this meant that to have a firearm you needed to join a gun club. In 2015 the wealth of Sporting shooters Association was estimated at 34 Million. This means they have a substantial amount of power to influence policy. So much so that they even created their own political party, the hunters shooters and fishers party led by Bob Katter and funded by his son in law who is the largest small arms dealer in Australia.
Close up of My Love is Bulletproof. Photo by Nalaka De Silva
This emotionally charged installation provokes discussion around Australias changing gun laws. ‘My Love is Bulletproof’ invites you into a landscape of gunfire frozen in time. In the centre a childs bulletproof vest constructed from hundreds of love letters written by mothers to their children creates a force field of love while diverting a cloud of shrapnel, to discuss the current attack on Australia’s gun laws. A shrapnel animation plays over the structure and artist documentary accompanies work.
Macro of childs Bulletproof vest made from hundreds of love letters written by mothers to their children. Photo by Michael Mavracic.
The National Firearm Agreement is under attack by wealthy pro gun lobbyists. Gun ownership has risen to 3.2 million, now equal to Port Arthur massacre and in NSW there is 1 gun for every 8 people.
Currently there are 172000 semi automatic weapons registered in Australia. When I mention facts like this I normally get told that guns are only in the country and they are used by farmers to shoot kangaroos. I’m sorry but that is not the truth. The majority of these semi automatic weapons are in Urban areas. They are also the weapon of choice for drive by shootings. In march-April this year in Melbourne we had 8 people shot dead in eight weeks. This is an unprecedented rise in shootings and I fear part of a much larger trajectory.
In March 2019 Pauline Hansons One Nation party were caught on camera soliciting 20 Million from the NRA in America. The NRA were quoted as saying every time there is a shooting in America Australia’s gun laws are held up as an example and this is a problem for us. It would help us to change Australias gun laws. One Nation were quoted as saying, imagine the power we would have in the Senate, we would have the whole country by the balls, we could really change Australia to be more like America.
Gallery view of Cube 37 Gallery, Frankston Arts Centre. Photo by Michael Mavracic.
My message is compassion, which is love with action. We cannot take the stance that it is not happening to us personally, we must act as if we are one unified whole and what happens to one happens to all because it is the truth. When we tolerate the rise of hate speech, islamaphobia and extremist views in the media and in politics we normalize it. When we do this we should not be surprised when the outcome is extremism and hatred. Australia is ripe for another massacre, it has all the necessary ingredients, and in April we got one. An Australian man just decided to do it in Christchurch instead of here. The weapon he used to kill 50 innocent people and wound 50 more is the most commonly owned weapon in Australia today.
The Christchurch Massacre is an urgent reminder that we cannot allow our apathy to dictate our policy. I ask you to dodge a bullet Australia and preserve your right to feel safe in Public space.
Thanks to everyone who came to see the exhibition and show your support.
I hope to give more people the chance to hear this important message and will be looking at ways to tour this exhibition. Please contact me to discuss if you have an opportunity this would be perfect for.
art director, and artist with over 20 years experience working internationally for many high profile brands, living in Melbourne Australia. As a conceptual visual artist her work is built on compassion, love with action and human rights issues. Her guiding belief is we are all equal and valuable, we are all one an all connected.