Thorarinn Ingi Jonsson has, as he put it to Torontoist in a phone interview earlier today, “seen better days.”
The Integrated Media OCAD student and his final project for his advanced video class are the direct cause––intended or not––for yesterday’s bomb scare at the Royal Ontario Museum, and, a day later, Jonsson is now suspended from OCAD and is wanted for questioning by police.
Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymades pieces (the most famous of which is the urinal-cum-art-piece Fountain), Jonsson wanted to make a piece for his final project about recontextualization: the idea that the context changes the meaning of a piece of art. In this case, something that is “quite clearly not dangerous, but when you put it in a different context the viewer recontextualizes it”: a fake pipe bomb, and fake YouTube videos showing its fake explosion.
Yesterday at about 4 p.m., Jonsson walked into the ROM with the fake bomb inside a bag. Attached to the bomb was a note that read “This is not a bomb.” Jonsson thought that the note meant he wasn’t breaking the law: he had been advised by an OCAD Student Union lawyer before installing the piece, he says, against spreading false news, and told that he should not attempt to deceive people about the bomb’s legitimacy. (That’s why, for instance, one of the descriptions for the videos he later uploaded read: “Fake footage of the fake bombing at the Royal Ontario Museum capturing the fake moment of impact.”) Though Jonsson intended to leave the pipe bomb outside of the bag out in the open in a “noticeable spot,” “almost like a presentation,” he says there were “too many people around,” and he decided to keep the sculpture inside the bag, placing it on the right-hand side of the ROM’s Bloor Street entrance with the declarative note visible on top.
“I went a bit down the street, as soon as I came out of the gathering,” he told us, “and I dialed up the ROM and they asked for an extension and I hadn’t really thought that far, so I typed in some random last name and I ended up reaching some girl at some office at the ROM and I simply told her: ‘Listen there’s no bomb by the entrance to the museum,’ and then I hung up.”
Jonsson went straight from the ROM back to school for 5 p.m. to give his presentation of his final piece, where he “revealed the extent of the project.” People in his class, he says “were really impressed with the extent I went to.” Worried that there was a possibility of legal action, he hadn’t told his professors about the piece until the night it was installed.
When Jonsson got back home, he uploaded the videos he’d recorded earlier that day to YouTube (to an account that featured other videos––like the one of Osama Bin Laden on the roof of the World Trace Center watching as hearts pour out of the building and Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me” plays––that Jonsson says are “completely unrelated”). Then, he e-mailed the addresses of them to several news organizations.
“I didn’t really expect it go so crazy.”
Nothing happened until about ten that night, when Jonsson starting hearing about the “crazy circus” that the ROM and its surrounding area had been turned into: streets shut down, bomb squad on hand, and an AIDS gala cancelled (which Jonsson says he had no idea about and that he does “feel bad about”). A day later, “the police are looking for me,” he admits (he intends to approach them, and he fears a mischief charge); while OCAD has taken disciplinary action against him as well, suspending him from the school today for non-academic misconduct.
Photo courtesy of Thorarinn Ingi Jonsson.