In 2003 I was asked to create a piece that utilizes a suitcase for an exhibition at the Denver Airport in Colorado. It was a collaborative project with the artist Max Yawney in which he made a large series of cutout foam suitcase shapes all painted grey and he asked individual artists to make pieces that use a suitcase as their main form of material. Max found a corridor in the airport that had a long line of glass display cases that were divided in the middle in which he could place both one of his gray cut outs and the individual artist’s piece. For this project I made the sculpture TEST SET, MK-4 GTS/APU SYSTEM A/E -24M-40 which was made using an old military aircraft container that I found at a flea market and some plastic model aircraft missiles. The case is made of 2 halves and uses 8 heavy duty clasps to keep it together. This turned out to be a nice feature for displaying it since the case was designed to be stacked, so the top could be taken off, flipped and put underneath so that the bottom “feet”, which are concave, could fit exactly on of top of the cone shaped “feet” from the top (which is now upside down and on the bottom.) I also liked the stenciling on the side which is where the title comes from and I stenciled AAPRHIGBEE04 on the other half of the lid which can’t be seen in the final photograph. I cut out some gray foam so it would fit in the bottom half of the case and cut slits for the missiles which I had built from 3 different sets of missiles used for model aircrafts. I made the missiles as realistic as I could and even found a way of fitting the missiles into the end of a Dremel tool to spin it like a lathe in order to produce accurate stripes where needed. I then attached pins to the missiles with glue so I could sink them into the foam where I made the slits, sinking them slightly and securing their positions. I did this in pairs to further emphasize their symmetrical use on fighter planes.

At some point my piece was pulled from the exhibition along with 2 other pieces that were found to be offensive. My piece was eventually returned due to the fact that it was considered to be only “borderline offensive.” The ACLU got involved and there was some minor reporting in the news. One of the funny things that I found repeated in the media was that my suitcase contained “small planes and missiles” which was obviously not true, there were only missiles. Also I found it ironic that people were offended by the sight of missiles when I had purposefully made sure that the model missiles that I used were for U.S. fighter planes which I found to be more offensive.

TEST SET by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Filed under Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, Sculpture

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