Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carnegie International artist Taryn Simon does not know her fencing weapons

I was in Pittsburgh last weekend, and one of the things I did was visit the Carnegie International, the big international art show that comes to the Carnegie Museum every few years. I hope to say more about the exhibition later on, but for now, I’d like to air one very specific, particular gripe.

A lot of people have been talking about the piece “Birds of the West Indies,” by artist Taryn Simon. It consists of 190 photos depicting the various women, cars and gear from the James Bond movies. "Using this inventory of individuals and props, Simon seeks to undermine the never-dying masculine ideal that is Bond by detailing how the film’s accessories have upheld the myth of the 'seductive, powerful, and invincible western male,'" writes Ashton Cooper in the blog In the Air. Well, quite. 

My complaint? One of the photos, cataloged as B.69, is captioned “Foil, 2002." (See this online list.) The photo isn't online, but I studied it carefully at the museum. The weapon depicted indeed appears to be the one Pierce Brosnan wields in this scene in Die Another Day:

As any fencer will tell you, that's no foil. That’s an epee.


I'm not one of those people who gets bent out of shape if a soldier in a movie fires a Makarov PM when he should be using a Tokarev TT-33. But there are only three weapons in fencing, and they're really different! If you're going to be undermining a never-dying masculine ideal, this is the sort of thing you should get right.

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