The world’s largest arms fair takes place every two years, below the glittering towers of Canary Wharf, in London Docklands. Here, a bomb ‘steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent.’ Missiles glint under spotlights, ammunition shells are arranged in ascending order, tanks are open for viewing. As the lines blur between the military and police there are also private military services, surveillance systems, armed drones, and equipment for crowd control. Mannequins with tranquil, plastic faces hold machine guns, pepper gel, and tear gas. And between the displays, tables are laid with fruit and champagne, while a string quartet plays Mozart from the back of a military truck. Guests include repressive regimes, unstable states, and countries involved in aggressive wars. Yet the arms trade is not illicit, but actively promoted by the UK and other governments. How is it legitimized?
Jill Gibbon uses drawing and performance to explore the etiquette of the arms trade. For the past ten years she has visited arms fairs in Europe and the Middle East by dressing up as an arms trader with a suit, paste pearls, and a fake company. Once inside she draws, and collects gifts from the stalls.
The project will be exhibited at the Bradford Peace Museum April-June 2018 and is funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation and Leeds Beckett University.