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On Thursday evening, Torontoist broke the news that Wednesday’s bomb threat at the Royal Ontario Museum was OCAD student Thorarinn Ingi Jonsson’s final project for an advanced video class. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymades (like Fountain, pictured above), Jonsson told us that the piece was about recontextualization, the idea that context changes art’s meaning; in this case, something that is, he said, “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.
Two hours after our interview, Jonsson turned himself into police and now faces a charge of common nuisance and mischief interference with property. Two teachers were suspended from OCAD in connection with the piece, while Jonsson himself was suspended for non-academic misconduct––even though the piece was for a class, and even though he (as he told us) didn’t let his professors know about it beforehand because he was worried about getting them in trouble.
One question hangs over this whole mess: all things considered––execution and outcome; the whole ongoing process, after all, qualifies as recontextualization––is it art?