In continuing with our conversation about the conditions that attract an artist to his subject Bayeté Ross Smith sheds light on his process. In Bayeté’s concentration “Taking AIM” for example, once the subject has been found, Bayeté begins to draw socio political lines determining for instance, how the subject fits into a society that has so many various, contradictory takes on violence. And what better way to do this than to print a target over the person’s portrait and fire at it with a real gun?
“The images with the targets are from a series called Taking AIM. With this work I am interested in that fine line that exists between acceptable, condoned and recreational violence, and deplorable criminalized violence. This dichotomy exists through out popular culture, from Hip Hop to action movies, to sports like boxing, mixed martial arts and football. It also exists through out history, in terms of what wars, massacres and assassinations are considered just, and who is considered a tyrant. Finally it exists in the news and in current events, in terms of what types of violence gets reported and how it is contextualized. What was most compelling for me here was putting an easily recognizable human face on the targets and the shooting them. I researched shooting range targets and realized that most of them, do not resemble actual people, even though when you practice shooting you are practicing to be able to kill a person. There is no scoring on shooting range targets for shots that wound. The primary scoring is for kill shots. Even the targets that do resemble human beings are images that portray caricatures from a “Cops and Robbers” scenario, and don’t look like someone you might know. When I created these images I wanted them to look like people we all might know, from various demographics. Therefore I used images of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and dressed them in clothing ranging from casual to formal. I also wanted them to have a similar look, so that none of them stood out more than any of the others aside from how the viewer may feel about them. Finally I shot them with different guns, naming the pieces after the specific guns they were shot with.”