By Jim Rutledge
BERLIN — Police conducted a pre-dawn raid earlier this month on the studio of Swiss-French artist Julian Charriere, seizing a one-ton air cannon created for an upcoming art show, the first Antarctic Biennale. The confiscated artwork was designed to fire a single coconut, rather than live munitions.
The cannon was created over the course of two months for an exhibit titled The Purchase of the South Pole, which was scheduled to run the last two weeks of March. The event included 100 artists and researchers from around the world to focus on the cultural future of Antarctica in the southernmost city of Ushuaia.
Charriere took the coconut fruit from the Bikini Atoll where the United States tested nuclear weapons in the 1940s and ’50s.
According to the artist, the Berlin raid was conducted after a passerby walking their dog by Charriere’s studio saw the weapon and alerted police. At the time, a studio assistant was assembling the work in the industrial courtyard of the studio in preparation of testing it prior to shipping to Antarctica.
“It’s not every day you confiscate a coconut cannon,” Charriere said in a statement to the media. The cannon uses a long coconut tree trunk for a barrel. It was seized the same day it was scheduled for shipment.
He was in New York when the artwork was confiscated. Police had to use a crane to haul the piece out of the studio. As of press time, the artwork still had not been returned despite Charriere’s assistant showing authorities artwork documentation created under the patronage of UNESCO.