It Only Takes One / 911


It Only Takes One is a impermanent war memorial, installed by Sandra Halpin at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design on September 11, 2011, in honor of the 10th anniversary of 911.

[YouTube link: video documentation]

This site-specific installation is comprised of spent bullet casings of varying calibers, each placed butt-end down in the center of a square stone tile in the University’s Marion Center courtyard.



Visually, the rows of bullets reference Arlington Cemetery, with its rows of identical white grave markers. The deeper significance of the bullets, however, is the idea that it only takes one bullet to kill one person, and how quickly the numbers of bullets and bodies add up.

The bullet casings were found by the artist in the area north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, known as Rowe Mesa. For the past several years, it’s become a local tradition out there on the BLM land to practice shooting a variety of guns, the shooters leaving the spent shells and casings on the ground where they’ve accumulated over time.

Halpin, who often uses shadows in her work, chose the site specifically for its square tile grid, and for the bright light that casts intense shadows off the bullet casings that shift position as the sun moves gradually across the courtyard during the day.

The bullets were secured to the stone tiles with a tiny pinch of museum wax, which survived a rain storm, fierce winds and a host of curious viewers who tested their skill at walking through the narrow rows of casings without knocking any down. The photography and fine arts students of the Santa Fe University took ownership of the installation during its month-long exhibition, and protected it, righting any fallen bullets, picking up blown leaves from the area, and in one instance, actually chasing a “disrespectful” bicycler out of the courtyard.

“I was so happy that people enjoyed the work,” says Halpin, “ — that they felt comfortable walking through it, which is rare these days, for viewers to actually physically engage with the work. “And,” she adds, “that they took care of it without any prompting on my part, which gave the memorial the meaning — the tenor of reverence — I had intended.”




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