The world’s largest arms fair, DSEI, takes place every two years in London Docklands, with similar fairs in Paris, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain. Here, a bomb ‘steps forth as a commodity.’ Missiles glint under spotlights, tanks are open for viewing, bombs are displayed on pedestals. There are also private military services, armed drones, and tear gas for crowd control. Hostesses offer beer and champagne, with a hint of something more on the side. A string quartet plays Mozart from the back of a military truck. Guests include repressive regimes, and countries fighting aggressive wars. Yet the arms trade is not illicit, but actively promoted by the UK and USA.
Jill Gibbon visits arms fairs in Europe and the Middle East by dressing up as an arms trader with a suit, plastic pearls, and a fake company. Her pretence is a metaphor for the facade of respectability in the industry. Once inside she draws, and collects complementary gifts from the stalls - stress balls in the shape of bombs and grenades, toy tanks, sweets and condoms with marketing slogans.