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PROJECT Used War Lot, 1985, Independent Site Work, Washington, DC, USA
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Project Description

This project was another of the "instant art" low budget projects that had to be cooked up on the spur of the moment. The Viet Nam Veterans memorial project had just been completed a year or so before and the USA had just beat up a couple of third world countries for sport, but it was a relatively peaceful time when people were starting to feel nostalgic about good old wars. Lynn had found some developer who wanted to loan his vacant lot in a really bad neighborhood on which [the artists] were supposed to make art. Once again the budget was whatever could be scrounged or stolen, and there were "interns" that could be abused in any way they were needed. The lot was at the corner of 11th and U streets in good old blighted Shaw. The cops had just thrown the heroin dealers off the strip at 14th and T and they had all moved and set up operations at the corner [the artists] were supposed to work. The lot was not too full of trash when it was checked out for artistic potential, but it wasn't looking good. It would have made a good location for selling overpriced jalopies with high interest rates, if it had a really high, strong fence around it and a couple of German shepherds, and that's what inspired the idea for the Used War Lot. The group copied the free standing High Standard Sign from a couple of fifties style car lots a few blocks away, and started creating war memorials. The World War Three Memorial was a direct lift from Maya Lin's masterpiece, a pair of forty foot long triangular plywood walls that were papered (by the interns) with pages from the DC phone book. If the Soviets had dropped the big one on Washington, all the denizens of DC would have qualified for inclusion on the WALL. The Gary Gilmore tableau was also transplanted from the 930 Club, and a very amusing Chinese/Korean War Memorial where decapitated plaster heads with chopsticks stuffed in the ears hung from a gibbet as a warning to others. There were a few other exhibits on display. The festivities began in the late afternoon, and beer was dispensed as refreshments for the art afficianados, who were being overrun by panhandlers and junkies during the very early stages of the event opening. Some of the indigenous locals were getting aggressive, and the heroin dealers, who were working out of a store across the street, thought the performance was interfering with business. The situation looked lost until Alberto unleashed his secret weapon. He unveiled his super sound system with a specially made tape recording of marching feet, tanks rumbling on pavement, Hitler's speech to Aryan Youth, the rattle of artillery and screaming stukas over Poland. It became clear how important sound is in claiming and controlling space in a contentious situation. The bums and junkies disappeared like smoke and the dealers faded into the brickwork as Jared began his performance, like a late night used car lot commercial gone live on steroids and crystal meth. The artists finally exited the scene at sunset when the drug dealers had run out of patience and suggested everyone might be more willing to leave when coaxed by gunpoint. —Mark Clark

Participating Artists