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What Happens When You Fire an AK-47 at an iPad? An Artist Investigates

Dani Ploeger plays with the juxtaposition of technology and war in his new work 'Assault.'

Catherine Chapman

Dani Ploeger’s Assault (2016) hangs on the wall at the Variation Media Art Fair in Paris. Photo: Alexia Manzano

An iPad is designed with durability, and while accidents happen, firing an AK47 at its screen doesn’t fall under Apple’s warranty program. Dutch artist Dani Ploeger went to Poland in February 2016 to do just that.

“I fired an AK47 at a working iPad,” Ploeger tells The Creators Project. “I filmed the impact of the bullet on the screen with a high frame rate camera and recorded the sound. I play back this footage on a working iPad.” Ploeger explains this at the Variation Media Art Fair in Paris, where his work, titled Assault, was exhibited and put on sale. The working iPad he mentions hangs on the wall, playing the video so that it appears that the device gets shot with a bullet—somewhat shockingly—creating the appearance of a hole, the source of cracks that are now fictitiously spreading throughout the glass. The footage then gets played back slowly so that smoke is seen going through the original bullet hole, which at the end of the reel is shown closing up, the glass mended. The sound follows the same interchangeable process. "It’s an endless process of this iPad showing its own destruction and regeneration,” says Ploeger.

Assault (2016) saw artist Dani Ploeger firing an AK47 at an iPad. Photo: Alexia Manzano

Next to the iPad hangs a plastic bag with a bullet and empty 7.62x39mm cartridge inside. This project was the first time that Ploeger had shot the notorious Russian-made weapon but narratives of technology and its cultural impact play a significant role within much of his work. Assault was inspired through a search for methods of warfare, something that might echo the physicality of trench warfare of WWI and WWII. “I think in a way violence has become detached from a sense of reality,” says Ploeger. “It’s the kind of Tarantino violence, it’s violent but it doesn’t really relate to hurting people.”

Most notably since the Gulf Wars, military technology has advanced substantially, bringing today’s reality of war to one allegedly without any collateral damage through the use of weapons like drones or GPS-controlled missiles. With these tools, the notion of violence becomes more associated with a violent video game or film, rather than loss of human life or the destruction of homes and livelihoods.

Artist Dani Ploeger shoots an AK47 at an iPad. Photo: Maja Dubowska

Ploeger went to “the end of Europe," he says, on his search for the location that would illustrate the rawness of violence, paired with modern-day technical advancements. In Eastern Ukraine he saw it, traveling by a train that use to lead from Kiev to Donetsk, now 10km from the frontline of the Donetsk People's Republic. Fully equipped with WiFi, the train held other passengers,  too—uniformed soldiers, playing on their tablets and mobiles while on their way to an artillery range. 

“So this piece [Assault] kind of clashes those two things, the sort of primitive violence of the Kalashnikov gun, and the sophistication of the high-tech digital device,” says Ploeger. “On one hand, it’s a representation of a violent act,” says Ploeger. “On the other hand, it totally aestheticizes it. So the piece is also an encapsulation, maybe the extension, of Hollywood cinema but with a material realness to it.”

Artist Dani Ploeger inspects his work. Photo: Maja Dubowska

Assault (2016) by Dani Ploeger. Photo: Alexia Manzano

Assault is only the starting point in Ploeger’s exploration into war, culture and their changing definitions, so make sure to keep up with his work here.

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