Street artist Rene Gagnon’s self-portrait has been making appearances all over the world since 2005, although his most recent cameo at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, VA, has caused quite a stir among the Department of Homeland Security. After one of Gagnon’s stickers was found on a trashcan in the airport, DHS sent out an e-mail with a photo attachment, asking anyone with information to “please contact [a] local InfraGard Cooredinator and/or DHS SA.” Government Security News ran an article describing the sticker as “highly unusual,” with “a man clad in a long black jacket, all black pants, shirt, boots and baseball cap with his arms outstretched, his gaze pointed upwards and a bomb prominently attached to his chest.” Gagnon responded to the incident on his website:
“At first glance “maybe” it could mistaken as a suicide bomber but with a little research on the internet you can find me as the creator of the image, so not so sure why this caused a stir. I’m sure the DHS has the best techies around to find out such things.”
Apparently not, but who could blame them? I’d be more surprised if someone from Homeland Security went “Oh, that’s nothing to worry about; Rene Gagnon is just a street artist.” Plus, street art has prompted scares like this in the past. Police see something that’s a little out of place and automatically assume it’s a bomb.
1134 NYC, a graffiti group from Staten Island, convinced a whole neighborhood in Brooklyn that bombings were imminent in 2004.
In 2007, a bomb squad was instructed to defuse LED Mooninites put up as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force in Boston.
A bomb squad was called into D.C. yesterday to disarm homeless Polar Bear statues put up by Greenpeace in an effort to protest the BP oil tragedy.