[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]ong before cellphones were used to spark revolutions, the Molotov cocktail was the weapon of choice for protestors looking to incite flames within a city’s walls and citizens' hearts. The incendiary homemade device became a symbol of economic, political, and cultural uprisings worldwide, dating back to the Spanish Civil War to the recent Arab Spring to our own city blocks during the Watts and LA Riots.
The Trump Era seems ripe to rekindle the flames of protest. Think Tank Gallery and artist Phil America seem to think so, teaming up with El Silencio Mezcal to launch a series of immersive art activations featuring a Molotov cocktail vending machine and a pop-up lemonade stand that sells lighter fluid and hand-carved zippo lighters. These Melrose Ave street installations will lead-up to a four-day art show called We Stole the Fire opening on Saturday, Aug. 4th at RCNSTRCT Studio.
As with any art exhibit in Los Angeles, socially-conscious or not, We Stole the Fire will be centered around a compelling made for Instagram Story image. The black and red Molotov cocktail vending machine is sure to be popping up on your timelines this week. Conceived by Phil America, best known for his U.S. Border Unauthorized Galleriesseries, it is both a reflection of the rampant availability of weapons in our society and that revolutions are never cost prohibitive. “Molotov’s have historically been used to both resist and reclaim and the machine looks to ignite that same spirit in the viewer,” says America in a press statement.
The fully functional vending machine will sell a limited-edition run of 200 Molotov Cocktails (made from empty El Silencio Mezcal bottles that come with a custom “STEAL THE FIRE” bandana) at a bargain price of $5 (or $55 online). A large portion of the proceeds of each sale will be donated to Everytown, a non-profit working to end gun violence and build safer communities. You may recognize the equally fresh lemonade stand, which has been used in legendary art exhibits and murals from the likes of Shepard Fairey and photograffeur JR. The repurposed newsstand is bookended by neon lit revolution slogans and will be open from 3pm to 9pm each day leading up the Aug. 4 art show.
I had a chance to chat with the one of the curators, Jacob Patterson of Think Tank Gallery, about the We Stole the Fire art show.
LA Taco: A molotov cocktail vending machine is a powerful image, both innocuous and provocative. Tell us a little about the concept behind it and why it’s such an important part of We Stole the Fire?
Jacob Patterson: The concept of stealing fire from the gods is something that every ancient culture has to do to acquire free will. In a lot of South and Central American cultures when you steal the fire for free will you also got tequila and mezcal, which is pretty great!
So who are the gods of 2018?
We settled on government, advertising space, corporate greed — tyranny that’s holding power from the people. We were searching for what is used to take that power back. Molotov cocktails are the most powerful symbol of resistance. They fit our aesthetic: they’re punk, street and gritty.
Like all good interactive installations, The Molotov Cocktail seems designed for Instagram. (in 2016, Think Tank was named one of the 25 most Instagrammable art spaces in the country by Vice along with The Broad, The Met, The Guggenheim).
Definitely. It’s a satirical art experience. We were making what people now call ‘immersive art’ ten years ago when we first started. We would call it the ‘X-factor’, which was to make something that people who don’t know what art is or who don’t feel invited, would still come out to see. The Molotov Cocktail vending machine fits that perfectly. People who would never go to an art show have walked by (on Melrose), stopped, and bought one just to see if it’s real.
So, are the Molotov Cocktails usable?
We threw it off a brick wall. It bounced off and almost hit a car. That’s one of the reasons why we’re using the Silencio bottles. Someone would put themselves on an FBI watch list to look up how to make a Molotov Cocktail out of one of these.
How can art shows like this incite us to be revolutionaries in our daily lives?
Shows like this bring people together. You get to see how artists are expressing their thoughts, which will spark conversations whether internally or by actually having a conversation with someone over a drink. That’s the first step towards making improvements in our lives. if 100 people take a selfie or buy a Molotov Cocktail and 1 or 2 of them looks into it more than that’s a healthy start. The idea it is to call up resistance and make people realize they have everything at their fingertips to resist.
We Stole the Fireat RCNSTRCT Studio at 7400 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046 (on the corner of Melrose & Martel) runs opens onSat, Aug. 4 at 6pm-10pm and runs from Aug. 5-7 at 11am-5pm. The opening ceremony (Aug. 4) and three day group art show (Aug. 5-7) will be overseen by Think Tank Gallery (with co-curators Jacob Patterson and Andrew Barsoum). Confirmed artists include Phil America, Sheryo x The Yok, Lolo YS, Abars, Willie Gomez, Kristen Liu-Wong, Robbie Conal, Teddy Kelly, Deladeso, xTOFUx, Scott Hove, Homeless Cop, Gangster Doodles, Ginger Q, Nicole Salgar, Dorian Lynde, Alec DeMarco, Samuel De Angelis, Ray Young Chu, The Portalists, Jon Von Bonk and Roman Prado.
Patrick Green is an LA-bred writer whose Kipple has appeared in film, print and online. He is also the creator/curator of the LA Street Food app. Check out more of his tales, lies and exaggerations on his website (www.iamdolemite.com)
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