Chris Hackett wanted to have the bomb completed on Monday. But at 4 o’clock that day, he was still out shopping for parts.
He said the strength of the bomb would be equivalent to “about four pounds of TNT. It doesn’t sound like much,” he allowed, “but it’s enough to kill everyone in the gallery.”
Mr. Hackett, who is an artist, doesn’t like to jaywalk; he crosses the Manhattan streets with caution. He looks something like a big paramilitary teddy bear, in work boots (his only pair of shoes) and all-black clothes. He’s in his early 30’s and has lots of big dreadlocks and many freckles. He’s a co-founder of the Madagascar Institute, a collective of radically minded artists in Brooklyn. This latest project, a functional suitcase bomb, will be included in a large art exhibition that will open under the auspices of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council a few days before Sept. 11.
Mr. Hackett’s bomb is designed to be triggered from “anywhere else in the world—you call a cell phone.” He said that he had already purchased the cell-phone trigger. Only he knows the number—but, of course, he has no plans to explode it.
The bomb’s construction will be, in essence, familiar to anyone who has seen a Die Hard movie. The two components that comprise the explosive, fertilizer and fuel oil, would be detonated with oxygen and propane, but they remain unmixed inside the suitcase until the bomb is triggered.
“As long as [the explosive materials are] separate, it’s like an aisle in Home Depot,” he said. “The whole thing is safe and inert.”
Mr. Hackett has a weird habit of talking of his bomb in an active—which is to say, explosive—tense. “To ignite it, I’m putting a resister [sic] in. What that does, it’ll take a while to get enough current in it—when it shorts out, it makes a spark. Two minutes later, the spark goes off and the thing explodes.”
“It won’t go off,” said Seth Cameron, creative director of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Mr. Cameron is the curator of the show, as well as an artist himself, and he was speaking from his Dumbo studio.
Did Mr. Cameron feel safe with the bomb’s construction? “Given Chris’ illustrious past, at first, no. Basically, I’m just making him swear up and down that he’s not going to …. ” He trailed off. “It’s one thing for him to blow himself up, but when it comes to other people … I’m just crossing my fingers.”
(“I’m just crossing my fingers”... now that inspires confidence! Color me glad I’m living in Boston, not NYC.)
Sooooo.... does this mean that all of the suicide bombers in Iraq and Palestine* and elsewhere, along with those responsible for the 1993 WTC and Oklahoma City bombings (to mention just a very few), are merely struggling, misunderstood artists? Should we petition the NEA to subsidize these visionary creative geniuses?
Or should we arrest Hackett for public endangerment and do our best to apprehend or kill those who are doing their best to try to kill us?
(Hat tip: LGF)
* By ‘Palestine’ I refer to the entire historical region of the British Mandate of Palestine—I should (more accurately) say ‘Israel,’ as no suicide terrorism (or very little if there is any) is taking place east of the Jordan River.