Arts Desk

When Tagging Reagan National Airport, Make Sure Your Art Doesn’t Depict a Bomb

gagnon

One of Rene Gagnon's bomber works.

Rene Gagnon is a bomber, in the way that street artists refer to putting their work up in public as "bombing." He is not a bomber in the way that kills people. Nonetheless, his stickers that depict himself as a suicide paint bomber (those are spray cans attached to his chest, not explosives) have foiled the Department of Homeland Security, which circulated an image of his work after a sticker appeared on a trash can at Reagan National Airport. According to Wired, DHS sent out a photo of the sticker seeking more information about its origin.

“Attached is a photo taken of a sticker placed on a trash bin at Reagan National Airport,” read the e-mail from DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “ICE is circulating this photo to see if anyone knows anything about it. If you know of anyone who may be able to identify it, please forward.”

Gagnon didn't place the sticker himself—his fans have been leaving them in unlikely locations for the past five years. Still, the Massachusetts artist is worried that authorities could over-react to his confrontational imagery, though he's never had any trouble in the past. Today on his website, he wrote, "If this is such a 'stir' worthy image, why hasn't international customs contacted me in the past? I've sent hundreds of mailing tubes all over the world with my bomber logo displayed on the mailing label with my full name and return address. Could this also be considered a threat?"

If this law-enforcement kerfluffle sounds familiar, think back to 2007, when some freelance video artists managed to bring the city of Boston to a halt when their viral ad campaign for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force was thought to be an explosive device. The electronic light boards that depicted a character from the show raising his middle finger frightened those who discovered them, because they contained batteries and stray wires. The artists faced felony charges as a result.

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